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LITTLE ILLUSTRATED BOOKS ON 

OLD FRENCH FURNITURE 

IV. FRENCH FURNITURE 

UNDER LOUIS XVI AND THE EMPIRE 



FRENCH FURNITURE 

I. French Furniture in the Middle 

Ages and under Louis XIII 

II. French Furniture under Louis XIV 

III. French Furniture under Louis XV 

IV. French Furniture underLouis XVI 

and the Empire 

ENGLISH FURNITURE 

{^Previously published) 

I. English Furniture under the 
TuDORs AND Stuarts 

II. English Furniture of the Queen 

Anne Period 

III. English Furniture of the Chippen- 

dale Period 

IV. English Furniture of the Sheraton 

Period 

Each volume profusely illustrated with 

full-page reproductions and 

coloured frontispieces 

Crown Svo, Cloth, price 45. 6d. net 
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN 




Four-poster Bed, Mahogany and 
Brass, with Satin Hangings 



LITTLE ILLUSTRATED BOOKS ON 
OLD FRENCH FURNITURE IV 

FRENCH FURNITURE 
UNDER LOUIS XVI 
AND THE EMPIRE 

BY ROGER DE FELICE 

Translated by 
F. M. ATKINSON 




LONDON MCMXX 

WILLIAM HEINEMANN 



im 



S3 



Printed by WOODS & SONS, LTD., London, N. 



INTRODUCTION 

In this volume Empire furniture will occupy 
much less space than Louis Seize. It may 
perhaps be enough to say that, in our opinion, 
this inequality is amply justified by the differ- 
ences in merit, comfort, and adaptableness to the 
needs of ordinary life that exist between the 
two styles ; but there is one more solid and 
positive reason. The aim of this handbook, 
like its predecessors, is to impart a better know- 
ledge of the furniture of past times, but most of 
all the furniture that was simple and practical, 
the good, honest pieces with no pretentions to 
sham luxuriousness, belonging to the modest 
middle classes or even the country folk of old 
France. Now, the Empire Style never had time 
to make its way into the depths of the provinces, 
where everything is so slow to change. In any 
case, how could that style, so learned and archaeo- 
logical, which had sprung finished and complete 
from the brain of a few fanatical devotees of 
antiquity, as once Minerva sprang in full panoply 
from out of the head of Jupiter — how could 
that style, so lacking in tradition, ever have found 
favour with the country people of France ? How 
could they have understood it ? And accordingly 
we find it left no trace in the output of the 
workshops of Provence or Normandy or Brittany. 
During the Revolution and the Empire, and still 
later, the country cabinet-makers, and those in the 



vi INTRODUCTION 

small towns, went on quietly with Louis XVI 
styles, which were often simply Louis XV hardly 
modified at all, and they continued this up to 
the moment when industrial production on a 
large scale, centralised and carried out by 
machinery, shut, one by one for ever, the little 
workshops from which throughout two centuries 
so much simple beauty had issued to spread its 
boon among the dwellings of the unpretentious. 
The Empire Style undoubtedly has its own 
beauty ; it is simple, severe, not very cordial, but 
sometimes imposing in grandeur, and superb in 
its air ; but it is almost always only the most 
costly and luxurious pieces that have these 
qualities ; their material must be supremely 
fine, as it is displayed in large masses with little 
decoration. The bronzes must be excellent in 
sculpture, since they often make the whole of the 
rich effect, and because being isolated, as they 
usually are, in the middle of large panels of bare 
wood, they assume an extreme importance, and 
necessarily hold the eye. The actual composition 
of these metal appliques can the less permit of 
mediocrity, inasmuch as it often has to make up 
for poverty in their invention and design. An 
Empire piece made on the cheap, with too much 
veneering, too little bronze or bronzes inferiorly 
chased or not at all, gives the impression of 
rubbish made expressly for catch-penny bargain 
sales ; indeed, was it not precisely under the 
Empire, perhaps during the Revolution, that 
cheap- jack furniture first came into being ? In a 



INTRODUCTION rii 

word, the ordinary product of this epoch has 
nothing to call for any infatuated devotion. A 
very w^ide-av^ake collector may still, from time to 
time, pick up in the heart of Paris, and for a mere 
song, authentic Jacobs unrecognised by the seller 
who has them tucked away in his shop, but they 
are becoming rare, and by the side of these lovely 
things, pure in line, sometimes v^th exquisite 
curves and of superior craftsmanship, how many 
dull flat horrors there are that have not even the 
excuse of being unpretentious ! 

It has doubtless been observed that the Direc- 
toire Style has no place in the title of this 
volume nor even in the table of chapters. Many 
styles are badly named, but none so badly as this 
— if it even exists at all. The government of the 
Directors endured four years altogether. Did 
anyone ever see a style spring up and establish 
itself in so short a time ? It would be more 
correct to say RevoliUion Style^ for chairs with 
shovel backs,* ^ or roll backs,* made of plain wood, 
either pierced or carved in weak relief, furniture 
decorated with lozenges, daisies and stars; beds 
with triangular pediments ; all these were being 
made from 1790; we even find models in 
collections before the Revolution, such as that 
of Aubert (1788). 

This transition period recalls the Regency by 

the double character of the furniture it produced. 

Certain pieces carry on the direct tradition of 

Louis XVI, while little by little modifying the 

^ The asterisk refers to the index at the end. 



viii INTRODUCTION 

lines to which cabinet-makers had been faithful 
during thirty years ; others displaying that excess 
in novelty which three quarters of a century 
earlier had characterised Rocaille^ repudiate all 
the past like the sans- culottes ^ and are more or 
less exact copies of Greco-Roman models ; of 
this kind are the celebrated pieces from David's 
workshop, which were speedily copied on every 
hand. When the imperial era arrives, it will drop 
all the exaggeration and retain the essence of 
these novelties, give them more restraint, more 
uniformity too, in a word, more style, precisely 
as the epoch of Louis XV had done for the some- 
what disordered imagination of the Regency. 
And so the Directoire style is Louis XVI ending 
and also the birth of the Empire ; but it is not 
an independent and finished style in itself. 

Without any further preamble, and after 
expressing our profound gratitude to the owners 
of antique pieces, and to the keepers of museums 
in Paris and throughout the country,^ to whose 

* Mile. M. de Felice, Mesdames de Flandreysy and Kahn, Mile. 
Mouttet, Messieurs Marius Bernard, Brunschvicg, Ceresole and 
Briquet, Duchene, Ladan-Bockairy, La Maziere, Mezzara and 
Touzain, of Paris; M. Andre Clamageran, of Rouen; Madame 
Broquisse, Messieurs Abel and Louis Jay, of Bordeaux ; Madame 
Meyniac, of Saint Medard (Gironde) ; Mile. Marie Jay, Madame 
Laregnere, Messieurs Guillet-Dauban, Loreilhe and Pascaud, of 
Sainte-Foy-la-Grande (Gironde) ; Mesdames Colin and Roudier, 
of La Riviere-de-Prat (Gironde); M. Ducros of Simondie 
(Dordogne) ; and the Directors of the Museum of the Union 
centrale des Arts decoratifs, of the Carnavalet Museum, of the 
Departmental Museum of Antiquities of Rouen and of the Museon 
Arlaten. 



INTRODUCTION ix 

courtesy we are indebted for the illustrations in 
this volume, we shall proceed to set forth a 
summary account of the history of French 
furniture during the second half of the eighteenth 
century and the first fifteen years of the nine- 
teenth, and next we shall describe the charac- 
teristics and principal shapes of furniture and 
their possible use in a modern interior, first for 
the style of Louis XVI and next for the Empire 
Style. 



PRINCIPAL AUTHORITIES 

Bayard, Emile: "Le Style Louis XVI." Paris. 
" Le Style Empire." Paris. 

Benoit, Francois: "L'Art fran9ais sous la Revolution et 
TEmpire." Paris, 1897. 

Champeaux, Alfred de: "Le Meuble" (Bibliotheque de 
rEnseignement des Beaux-Arts). Paris. 

Ha YARD, Henri: " Dictionnaire de TAmeublement et de la 
Decoration." Paris. 

Lafond, Paul : " L'Art decoratif et le Mobilier sous la 
Republique et TEmpire." Paris, 1900. 

Molinier, Emile. " Histoire generale des Arts appliques a 
I'Industrie." Paris, 1896 (Vol. IIL). 

Seymour de Ricci : " Le Style Louis XVL" Paris, 1913. 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

INTRODUCTION v 

PART I 
A HISTORY OF THE TWO STYLES I 

PART II 

LOUIS XVI FURNITURE: 

L CHARACTERISTICS AND TECHNIQUE OF 

THE STYLE 37 

II. PANELLED FURNITURE AND TABLES 52 

III. CHAIRS AND VARIOUS PIECES : A LOUIS 

XVI INTERIOR 68 

PART III 
EMPIRE FURNITURE: 

I. CHARACTERISTICS AND TECHNIQEE OF 

THE STYLE 93 

II. VARIOUS ARTICLES OF FURNITURE AND 

THEIR USE 115 

INDEX-GLOSSARY 135 



> 



ziu 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FIG. PLATP 

Fmir-poster Bed, Mahogany and Brass, with Satin Hangings 

Frontispiece 

1. Leaf of a Door ") j 

2. Panel of Carved Wood ) 

3. Normandy Cupboard in Oak Z 

4. Cupboard with Revolutionary Emblems 3 

5. Large Cupboard from the Gironde, Half-moon Shaped 4 

6. Mahogany Cupboard from the South-west of France, with 

Mouldings S 

7. Provencal Cupboard in Walnut 6 

8. Credence Sideboard from Aries, in Walnut 7 

9. Etagerc ^ 

10. Bread Cupboard V 8 

11. Provencal Vi trine in Walnut J 

12. Etagdre from Aries, in Walnut \ ^ 
1$. Kneading Trough from Aries, in Walnut ) ^ 

14. Vitriiie in Mahogany with Brass Ornaments 10 

15. Corner Cupboard in Marquetry, of different Coloured Woods II 

16. Drop front Escritoire in Marquetry with Gilt Bronzes 12 

17. Bonheur du Jour with Roll-front, in Mahogany and Brass 13 

18. Commode with Two Drawers and on Legs, in Marquetry I4 

19. Commode with Terminal-Shaped Legs and Pierced Brasses A 

tn Walnut \ 1 5 

20. Commode with Flutings, Diminished at the Base, in Walnut) 

21. Commode with Toupie Feet, in Mahogany and Brass 16 

22. Commode on Legs, in Mahogany Veneer 

23. Commode with *' Pieds de Biche," in Rosewood, Tulip- 

wood and Lemon-wood 

24. Provengal Commode with Revolutionary Emblems, in 

Walnut 18 

25. Tall Chiffonnierc with Toupie Feet, in Mahogany and 

Brass I^ 

26. Escritoire-commode from the Gironde, in Elm-wood 20 

27. Card Table on Pivot, in Mahogany ") 

28. Triangular Folding Table, in Walnut ) 

29. Bouillottc table in Gilt Wood and Marble \ 

30. Bouillotte table in Mahogany, Brass and Marble ] 

31. Console with Two Legs, tn Painted Wood\ 

32. Console with Two Legs, in Walnut j ^ 

33. Console with Two Legs, in Gilt Wood 24 

34. Small Table with *' Pieds de Biche," in Walnut {begin- ) 

ning of the style) y 2% 

35« Night Table in Mahogany and Brass ) 

XT 



b- I 17 



xvi LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FIG. PLATE 

l6. Chiffonniere in TiiUp-wood and Marble *) z- 

37. Chiffonniere in Mahogany and Brass ] 

38. Arm-chair {end of the style) "i 

39. Berg^re in Wood, Upholstered in Lyons Satin Brocade j ' 

40. Arm-chair of Painted Wood, Upholstered in Utrecht Velvet 28 
j[I, Cabriolet Arm-chair^ Medallion Bach ") 

42. Cabriolet Arm-chair with Fiddle Back ) ^ 

.43. Cabriolet Arm-chair with Round Scat, in Walnnf) -^ 

44. Cabriolet Arm-chair in Gilt Wood j ^ 

45. Arm-chair with Square Back, in Walnut "^ 

46. Arm-chair with Upright Consoles, in Gilt Wood {end of > 31 

the style) ) 

47. Large Arm-chair covered in Aubusson, Gilt Wood 32 

48. Chair with Quiver-shaped Legs, in Walnut "^ 

49. X-shaped Stool in Gilt Wood, with Square Aubusson > 33 

Cushion ) 

50. Bergere in Walnut, Upholstered in Utrecht Velvet \ « 

51. Small Bergere, in Painted Wood j ^^ 

52. " Confessional " Bergere, in Painted Wood 35 

53. Chair with Flat Baluster Back, in Gilt Wood "^ 

54. Lyre-Backed Chair in Gilt Wood > 36 

55. Chair with Open Back, in Painted Wood ) 

56. 57 and 58, Mahogany Dining Chairs with Cane Seats, or 

Covered in Leather 37 

59, 60 and 61. Straw-seated Chairs and Arm-chair with Lyre 

Backs 38 

62. Carved Straw-seated Chair '\ 

63, Straw-seated Arm-chair with Cushions > 39 
164. Straw-seated Chair with Sheaf Back j 

65. Straw-seated Chair from the Dordogne, in Cherry-wood a 

66. Straw-seated Arm-chair from the Dordogne, in Cherry- \^ « 

wood i ^ 

67. Straw-seated Chair from the Dordogne, in Cherry-wood J 

68. Straw-seated Sofa from Provence with its Cushions 41 
69- Sofa in Gilt Wtod, Upholstered in Breche Silk {end of the 

style) 42 

70. Chaise Longue in One Piece, Gondola Shape 43 

71. Chaise Longue Brisee in Two Equal Pieces 44 

72. Chaise Longue Brisee in Two Unequal Pieces 45 

73. Chaise Longue Brisee in Three Pieces 46 

74. Four-poster Bed from Lorraine, Carved in the Renaissance 

Tradition 47 

75. Angel Bed with "Hat" -shaped Dossiers, in Painted Wood 48 

76. Angel Bed with Arched Dossiers, in Painted Wood 49 

77. Screen in Painted Wood and Broche Silk ") _ 

78. Screen in Walnut and Brocatelle j ^ 

79. Case Clock in Oak, Paris ") 

^. Case Clock in Oak from Lorraine j " 




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xvll 



PIG. PLATE 

8l, 82 and 83. Small Mirrors with Carved Pediment^ in Gilt 

Wood 52 

84. Cupboard from the Gironde, in Walnut {beginning of the 

style) 53 

85. Drop front Escritoire tn Mahogany with Brass Inlay 

{beginning of the style) 54 

86. Bonheur dn Jour in mahogany with Flat-gilt Bronze 

Ornaments 55 

87. Console in Rosewood Inlaid with Brass {beginning of \ 

the style) I , 

88. Console with Arched Sides, in Pear-wood {beginning of ( ^ 

the style) ) 

89. Console with Caryatides, in Mahogany and Bronze 57 

90. Slope-fronted Bureau with Revolutionary Emblem 58 

91. Chair with Rolled Back, in Gilt Wood ") 

92. Arm-chair with Open Rolled Back, in Painted Wood ) ^9 

93. Arm-chair with Rolled Back, in Painted Wood ") ^ 

94. Small Bergcre, in Painted Wood j ^° 

95. Arm-chair with ''Horned " Back {beginning of the style) \ ^ 

96. Chair of the Revolutionary Period, in Mahogany ) 

97. Meridienne in Mahogany and Gilt Bronze 62 

98. Mahogany Chaise Longue in the Antique Style 63 

99. Bed with Rolled Dossiers, in Painted Wood {beginning of 

the style). Used as a Divan 64 




PART ONE : A HISTORY OF 
THE TWO STYLES 

Empire furniture differs widely from that of 
the Louis XVI period ; and yet the two styles are 
derived from the same principle applied from 
1760 to the Revolution with a great deal of dis- 
cretion and respect for the national taste, and 
from 1789 to 1 8 15 with the most uncom- 
promising rigour. This principle is that of the 
imitation of Antiquity. That was not merely a 
particular circumstance, limited to the restricted 
circle of the art of the cabinet-maker, but, as it 
is called, a fact of civilisation ; something like — 
in a different proportion — what the Renaissance 
had been to France in the sixteenth century. 
This return to Antiquity, in fact, manifested itself 
in all the arts, in literature, and even, a little 
later, in the ways and customs of the French 
people. Its evolution took place pretty much as 
in the sixteenth century ; the art of Louis XV, 
like the flamboyant Gothic art of the fifteenth 
century, was an art that was purely French and 
modern, and which owed nothing, with the 
exception of certain works of architecture, to 
Greco- Roman antiquity. The influence of the 
latter at first transformed it only little by little, 
with every kind of compromise and accommoda- 
tion, moving on by regular stages, and never 



% LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

clashing directly with the national character or 
modern habits. The first French Renaissance, 
that of the reigns of Louis XII, and of Frangois 
the First, had done exactly the same. A little 
later, as in the time of Fhiiibert Delorme, Pierre 
Lescot and Androuet du Cerceau, the imitation 
of antiquity becomes much more severely exact ; 
it has its extreme theorists, whose scorn for every- 
thing not Greek and Roman is complete and un- 
mitigated ; and now the Empire Style is born, the 
exact reverse of all that had been purely French 
in our applied art. 

The Empire then is not a reaction against 
the Louis XVI Style, but its logical outcome. 
The brains of stiff and undeviating logicians, such 
as were so numerous in the revolutionary and 
imperial epochs, like David, Percier, Fontaine, 
coming after men like SoufHot and Ledoux, were 
inevitably bound, with the republican manners 
helping things on, to draw this absolute con- 
clusion from the premises imprudently laid down 
thirty years earlier. That is why it is fitting 
to set forth at one and the same time the history 
of two styles which are quite distinct, but the 
second of which prolongs the first with an 
immaculate correctness. 

The Louis XV Style had become quite out of 
fashion, at any rate at Paris, many years before 
the death of the King whose name has been 
given to it ; to be precise, it was about 1760 that 
furniture decoration and applied arts in general 
were seen to turn in a new direction, while 



THE VOGUE OF ANTIQUITY 3 

Louis XVI was not to succeed his grandfather 
until 1774. This first vogue of articles ''in the 
Greek manner," as they were then called, came 
immediately after the appearance — the coinci- 
dence is complete — of a whole series of works on 
Ancient Greece and Ancient Italy, accounts of 
travels, collections of documents, archaeological 
studies. President de Brosses, about 1740, had 
brought the classical Italian tour into fashion. 
From 1749 to 1751 Madame Pompadour's 
brother, then Marquis de Vandieres, and later 
Marquis de Marigny, had been sent by his sister 
on a mission to Florence, Rome and Venice, with 
the artist Cochin and the architect Soufflot, fo 
form his taste by the study of the work to 
the Renaissance, and above all of the Roman 
antiquities, before becoming Surintendant des 
Beaux Arts to Louis XV. In 1754 the architect 
Leroy paid a visit to the East, and four years 
after published the Ruines des plus beaux 
moniunents de la Grece, The learned Comte 
de Caylus, a member of the Academic des Inscrip- 
tions and the Academic de Peinture et de 
Sculpture, a great amateur in art and patron of 
artists, helped in the propagation of the *' taste 
for the antique " with all his influence ; he had 
travelled through Turkey, Greece, Asia Minor. 
His huge Recueil d^ ajitiquiUs egyptiennes^ 
itrusques^ grecques^ gatiloises began to appear 
in 1752 and had a brilliant success of curiosity. 
Five years later came his Tableaux tires 
d^Homere ct de Virgile^ a collection of 



4 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

" subjects " to be treated by sculptors and 
painters tired of pastorals dindi fetes galantes. 
But what struck men's imaginations most was 
"^ the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii, the 
two dead towns that were then beginning to lift 
their shroud of cinders and lava. Archaeology 
was made over again from foundation to coping- 
stone ; it became all at once alive, familiar, in- 
teresting to the most frivolous spirit, for what the 
excavations were on this occasion bringing out 
once more into the light of day was no longer a 
mutilated marble torso, a broken architrave, a 
sarcophagus, but the round whole of ancient life ; 
the temples and the theatres, but above all the 
houses with their decorations, their furnishings, 
their utensils, the whole setting and apparatus of 
daily life. Henceforward we knew how beds and 
tables were made in a Greco- Roman town of the 
first century, mural paintings, lamps, silver and 
bronze table ware ; and accordingly nothing was 
more deeply influenced than the art of the 
cabinet-maker by this resurrection, which was 
immediately made known to France by several 
works. As early as 1748 the Marquis de THopital 
and the savant Darthenay were publishing a 
Memoire historique et critique sur la ville 
souterraine decouverte an pied du mont 
Vesuve ; in 1750 President de Brosses was writing 
Lettres sur Petat actutl de la ville souterraine 
d^ Herculee ; the next year it was a Lettre sur 
les peintures d^Herculanum from Caylus him- 
self j and in 175^ the Observations sur les 



A NEW OUTLOOK 5 

antiqiiites d^ Herculamim by Cochin and 
Bellicard, while waiting for the collection of the 
Anttquites d^Herculanum, by Sylvain Marechal 
and F. A. David. 

Thus, in the middle of the eighteenth century, 
archaeology is no longer the speciality of the 
Benedictines, the Academic des Inscriptions and 
a handful of the erudite exchanging obscure 
memoranda among one another ; it interests folk 
in the world at large, it is fashionable. But this 
fashion, which might have been no more than a 
fleeting caprice, becomes something profound and 
lasting, a whole new attitude of mind, thanks to 
the potent patronage of people like Madame de 
Pompadour, and to the support given it by the 
" philosophic " writers with their customary en- 
thusiasm. Diderot and Rousseau especially, 
smitten with Plutarch and Seneca, never cease 
chanting the praises of antiquity, simple, virtuous 
antiquity, and enjoinmg artists like other citizens 
to learn from it lessons of dignity and good con- 
duct. They never perceive, these worshippers of 
nature, that the Louis XV Style, clearly under- 
stood in its essence, was nature itself. 

It is in the domain of architecture and in that 
of the trinket that the movement of reaction 
begins. Architecture is a grave personage, a 
little heavy to set in motion; she does not 
emancipate herself often, and her vagaries are of 
short duration ; she was only too happy to fall 
back under the easy yoke of Vitruvius and to find 
once more, with her beloved triglyphs, her most 



6 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

restful denticles. And so mansions, palaces, 
theatres, churches, are all '' in the Greek manner " ; 
the curved line that everywhere was supinely 
drooping now pulls itself together and straightens 
up. Rocaille\% banished from the carved stone 
work and from painted or panelled walls, and is 
replaced by the classic designs that had fallen for 
a moment from favour, which the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries had already borrowed from 
the Ancients. " After the Greek " also are chased, 
are hammered, are enamelled, the thousand and 
one baubles with which both feminine and 
masculine dress are finished off, and the trinkets 
with which, in this century, people delight so 
much to load their pockets or cover the small 
pieces of furniture with which they surround 
themselves. It is natural that these little articles 
should have been the first to follow the new 
fashion. Then come goldsmiths' work, bronzes 
for furniture, and the furniture itself; first the 
ornamentation, and then the line and structure. 
Painting and sculpture will bring up the rear, 
towards the end of the century, under the vigorous 
impetus of David. 

We have noted, in the preceding volume, the 
first somewhat hot protest that was raised against 
the agreeable freedom of the Louis XV Style, but 
it is worth returning to it. It had appeared first 
of all, unsigned, in the Mercure de France^ for 
December, 1754, under the title of a Stipplica- 
Hon aux Orfevres^ Ciseleurs^ Sciilpteurs en 
bots tour les appartements et autres^ par tin^ 




WITTY PROTEST 7 

SocieU d' Artistes. Grimm and Diderot believed 
that this witty sally was from the pen of the 
lively Piron, and inserted it, with strong appro- 
bation, in their Correspondance litter aire ; 
later it was found to be by the younger Cochin, 
a good engraver and draughtsman, artistic pro- 
fessor and adviser to Madame de Pompadour. 

Three defects above all are in this article 
charged against this poor Louis XV Style ; the 
lack of good sense and an excess of imagination ; 
the abuse of complicated curves ; the mania for 
vegetable ornament. " Be it most humbly 
represented to these Gentlemen that, whatever 
efforts the French nation may have made for 
several years past to accustom its reason to the 
vagaries of their imagination, it has been unable 
wholly to accomplish this ; these Gentlemen are 
therefore entreated to be good enough hence- 
forward to observe certain simple rules, that are 
dictated by good sense, whose principle we 
cannot wholly root out of our minds." And 
Cochin has not enough sarcasm for those lines 
that all want " to go on the spree " and which 
" make the prettiest contortions in the world." 
The supplication goes on : " The wood carvers 
are accordingly begged to be so good as to give 
credence to the assurance we give them, we who 
have no interest in deceiving them, that regular 
rectilinear, square, round and oval shapes give a 
decoration as rich as all their inventions ; that as 
their correct execution is more difficult than that 
of all these herbages, bats' wings and other sorry 



8 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

trifles that are now customary, it will do more 
honour to their talent." The flowery elegance 
of the ornaments, all the ingenious inventions 
of the designers who venture to "substitute 
herbages and other paltry prettinesses for the 
modillions, the denticles and other ornaments 
invented by men who knew much more about it 
than they do," find no mercy from this pitiless 
censor. " If we are asking for too many things 
at once, let them grant us at least one favour, 
that henceforth the principal moulding, which 
they ordinarily torment and contort, shall be 
and shall remain straight, conformably to the 
principles of good architecture ; we will then 
consent that they shall make their ornaments 
writhe around and over it as much as seems 
good to them ; we shall count ourselves not so 
unlucky, since any man of good taste into whose 
hands such an apartment may come, will be able 
with a mere chisel to knock away all these 
nostrums, and find once more the simple 
moulding that will provide him with a sober 
decoration from which his reason will not suffer." 
In conclusion : "With regard to them, it only 
remains for us to sigh in secret and to wait until, 
their invention being exhausted, they themselves 
grow tired of it. It appears that this time is 
at hand, for they do nothing now but repeat 
themselves, and we have grounds for hoping 
that the desire to do something novel will 
bring back the ancient architecture." 
Ten years later, Coc}).in's wish was granted j 



PSEUDO-HELLENISM 9 

under the date of 1764, we may read In the 
Memoires Secrets of Bachaumont : " The mania 
of the present day is to make everything after 
the Greek" ; and it is also in 1764, ten years 
before the arrival of Louis XVI, that i' Amateur 
was acted, a comedy by a certain N. T. Barthe, 
one of whose dramatis per sonce said: 

" fortunately for us 
The fashion is all for the Greek : our furniture, our jewels, 

Fabrics, head-dress, equipage, 
Everything is Greek, except our souls ..." 

In very truth their souls were hardly Greek, 
nor their way of living, nor their costumes, and 
the furniture artists of the time had the good 
taste and the good sense to bear the fact in 
mind ; progressively, and by slight touches, they 
modified the articles of furniture which the 
preceding epoch had created, so well adapted 
for modern life. First of all it was the bronzes 
and the carved and inlaid decorations that 
borrowed their elements from ancient architec- 
ture (or what was so called), the form remaining 
untouched. We can see, for example, armchairs 
of the transition type, all of whose lines have 
the sinuosities of the Louis XV Style, but which are 
ornamented with rangs de piastres or with en^ 
trelacs'y tables with crooked legs (pieds de biche), 
whose festooned frame is decorated with flutings 
(Fig. 34). Many provincial workshops never got 
beyond this stage, even under the Empire. 

Afterwards it is the lines of construction that 
gre gradually transformed ; the curves become 



10 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

simplified, decrease or stiffen one after the other 
into rectitude. An arm-chair still has a back 
shaped like a fiddle (Fig. 42), but its legs, 
turned and fluted, are rigid and square with the 
frame of the seat. A commode (Fig. 22) still 
has its legs slightly curved, but its body is 
already rectangular both in section and elevation. 
The transition period, vi^hose hybrid character 
has often much of grace, mainly comes to an end 
when that Dauphin and Dauphiness, who 
between them cannot count up forty years, 
become king and queen of France, acclaimed by 
the love and the hope of the whole nation. 

During about fifteen years (1770- 1785) evolu- 
tion remains practically at a standstill, and the 
differences that can be noted, in style, between 
this and that type of article, more or less recti- 
linear in design, with ornament more florid or 
more architec*-ural, are not differences due to their 
period, but are related rather to the diversity of 
temperament in the artists or divergence of taste 
in those for whom the pieces were intended. 

The first of the great-cabinet makers of the 
Louis XVI period in point of date and, without 
any dispute, in point of talent, is Jean Henri 
Riesener, who after having started, as an appren- 
tice, by making " Louis Quinze " in Oeben's 
workshop, was to live long enough to see the 
Empire Style triumphant and his own produc- 
tions disdained. This great artist, whose works 
are the very flower of French taste in the age 
when it was purest, was nevertheless a foreigner, 



RIESENER THE ARTIST ii 

marvellously assimilated, it is true, but by birth 
he was German. At the death of Oeben, even 
before he had been received as maitre ebeniste, 
he took over the management of his w^orkshop 
and then married his w^idow. He became known 
by finishing the orders given to his former 
employer by the royal Garde-Meuble, among 
other items, the famous bureau of King Louis XV, 
now in the Louvre; and in the height of the 
Revolution, in 1 791, he delivered to Marie 
Antoinette the escritoire and the commode that 
once were the gems of the celebrated Hamilton 
Collection, and are now the gems of that belong- 
ing to Mr. W. K. Vanderbih. 

It might be said that Riesener unites all the 
qualities of the style with which we are at present 
concerned. His works are, in their composition 
as a whole, ample, full of grandeur, proportioned 
to perfection, architectural in the best sense of 
the word, and withal always graceful and supple 
in line ; as for their ornament, whether it be 
marquetry or chased bronze, it is exquisite, now 
abundant and flowery as a rose garden in May — 
Marie Antoinette adored roses, and Riesener 
constantly worked for her — and now displaying a 
masculine soberness which is of the very highest 
taste. With him the outline is never arid; 
according to the excellent custom of the time of 
Louis XV he almost invariably adorned the sharp 
edges of his pieces with beaded or corded mould- 
ing in bronze ormolu gilt ; he understood how 
to temper with impeccable touch the deliberate 



12 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

rigidity of the " Greek " Style by means of a 
supple twining branch boldly bestriding a right 
line, or an acanthus leaf full of sap and life placed 
at the right spot. No one ever had to a higher 
degree the art of interpreting into elegance the 
elements purveyed by antiquity, and it is note- 
worthy that the older he became the more 
he multiplied dainty garlands, showers of blossoms, 
and draperies vnth soft flowing curves ; it might 
have been said that by redoubling French grace 
he was making his protest against the triumphant 
antiquomania of the time. He even remained 
faithful — which in 1791 was, to all intents and 
purposes, an act of defiance — ^to panels of Chinese 
lacquer. 

Martin Carlin is also an excellent representative 
of this pleasant Louis XVI manner, which is quite 
at its ease vnth antiquity; he also readily em- 
ployed old black and gold lacquer ; his delicate 
bronzes, deeply chased, perhaps a trifle affected, 
were frequently tiny garlands embossed upon the 
mouldings of the framework, or slender, elegant 
balusters adorning the angles. He loved the 
striking contrast of gilded bronzes upon polished 
ebony, dark and shimmering at the same time, 
which had recovered its bygone favour. 

We will be able to group together the cabinet- 
makers of severer taste, of heavier taste too, who 
sacrified more to sacrosanct antiquity, banished 
flowers — too frivolous ; and knots of ribbon — too 
coquettish ; and marquetry, whose fault is that 
it was never (perhaps) known to the Ancients, to 



I 



ROENTGEN & MARQUETRY 13 

keep all their affection for stiff lines, large uniform 
unbroken surfaces, and by way of decoration for 
the ovolos, ogees, modillions, fliutings and cablings 
of the Roman architects. Here will take his 
place Jean-Frangois Leleu, who was the first to 
inlay with thin brass the grooves of his flutings 
and to put metal rings round his pilasters ; Claude 
Charles Saunier, an elegant artist in marquetry 
at the outset of his career, but towards the end a 
great upholder of the antique genre^ whose man- 
ner is a trifle poverty stricken; Etienne Avril, 
whose pieces, vaguely English in appearance, are 
square, geometrical, with sharp edges, and panels 
of plain uniform veneer, framed in very narrow 
mouldings of gilt bronze. 

David Roentgen — he was generally called David 
— was a German like Riesener, but much less 
Frenchified than he ; his principal workshop was 
at Neuwied, and he only had a depot at Paris, 
where he came at frequent intervals to pick up 
his orders, to procure designs and make enquiries 
as to the fashions. For the general shape of his 
pieces, which was extremely simple, as well as 
their inconspicuous and almost rudimentary 
bronzes, he would be classed with the makers of 
whom we have just spoken, without equalling 
them ; but he is peerless for his marquetry. The 
art of making paintings with pieces of wood 
chosen for their various colours had, it appeared, 
no advance to make after the epoch of Louis XV ; 
and yet Roentgen managed to give to his persons, 
emblems or flowers, shadows much more satisfy- 



14 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

ing than those that were obtained by burning or 
engraving the wood. He used exceedingly small 
pieces of darker woods admirably arranged, some- 
what in the manner of the small stone mosaics of 
Florence, which gave to his marquetry a quite 
novel depth and vividness. The decorations of 
his panels were most often composed of a subject 
of flowers, boldly treated and only occupying the 
centre of the expanse of satin-wood, on which 
they stood out strongly. They were accompanied 
by the traditional ribbons, but treated in a suffi- 
ciently personal and original way; sometimes 
stretched out in lozenges to make a frame ; some- 
times carelessly knotted, they threw their ends 
boldly across the background ; again they fastened 
roses, anemones, lilies, narcissi, to a Bacchante's 
thyrsus, terminating in its fir cone. 

As the reign of Louis XVI draws near its 
catastrophe the taste for the antique becomes 
more exacting and spreads more and more. 
Choiseul-Gouffier, the Ambassador to Constanti- 
nople and a traveller in the East, publishes the 
first volume of his Grece Pittoresque, The 
Italianate German, Joachim Winckelmann, Presi- 
dent des Antiquites in Rome, Librarian at the 
Vatican, writes his Histoire de I'Art chez les 
Anctens, translated in 1781, his Reflextons sur 
r imitation des ouvrages grecs da^is lapeinture 
et la sculpture^ and other works, whose influence 
in France is almost as great as that of the collec- 
tions of engravings by the two Venetians, Piranesi 
the father and Piranesi the son, who engrave with 



THE YOUNGER ANACHARSIS 15 

indefatigable needle and burin the antiquities of 
Rome and Herculaneum. The Piranesis are 
also inventors of decorations, and the collection of 
*' Various Ways of Ornamenting Chimney-pieces 
and all other parts of Buildings after Egyptian, 
Etruscan, Greek and Roman Architecture," is a 
source from which architects, decorators, cabinet- 
makers, goldsmiths, are to draw for fifty years. 
Let us note the appearance of Egypt on the 
stage with its sphinxes, its sarcophagi, its gods 
with the head of a hawk or a jackal ; their em- 
ployment in French decorative art dates from 
long before the campaign of Egypt. The Hamil- 
ton collection of Greco-Etruscan ceramics is 
described and reproduced in the work of Han- 
carville, which supplied inspiration to all the 
painters' studios. 

These costly folios were produced only for a 
chosen few, archaeologists, amateurs and artists. 
Antiquity finds also numerous popular exponents, 
the most celebrated of whom is the Abbe 
Barthelemy, with his famous Voyag-e du Jeune 
Anacharsis^ which had an enormous success and 
enabled some notions as to the public and private 
life of the Greeks to penetrate to what is ca led 
the "great public" — the "man in the street." 
In all this still more attention was paid to Athens 
than to Rome, and accordingly Hellenic art 
began to be better known and vaguely distin- 
guished from Roman art. 

And now literature joins in the game. Since 
Montesquieu, " beauteous antiquity " had been 



i6 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

forgotten indeed, once so greatly admired, though 
for very different reasons, by the poets of the 
Pleiade, then by the great sixteenth century 
classicists. Now it was veritably to be dis- 
covered anew, especially in its artistic and, so to 
speak, plastic beauty. This was the aspect by 
which it charmed the sentimental epicureans 
of the end of the century. Almost everywhere 
storytellers and poets strove to evoke before the 
eyes of their readers groups at the same time 
sculpturesque and emotional, visibly inspired by 
Greco-Roman art ; Paul et Virginie is full of 
sujets de pendule — ^themes for ornamental clocks 
— in the purest style of late Louis XVI or the 
Empire. But the most perfect example of this 
neo- Alexandrian rather than neo- Attic literature, 
a little sugary, a trifle mannered, after the manner 
of Clodion or Canova, are the antique poems of 
Andre Chenier, le Jeune Malade^ la Jeune 
Tarentine^ V Aveugle, Even the great Chateau- 
briand himself v^U yet offer sacrifice many a time 
to this taste in Atala and in les Martyrcs, 

The same applies to painting. Long before 
the Revolution broke out David had acquired 
his icy, rigid, grand manner; the Oath of the 
UoratUy exhibited in the Salon of 1785, four 
years after his Belisarius^ marked him out as 
the chief of the French school. Henceforth 
this new Le Brun, as despotic and narrow in idea 
as the other, lays upon the unfortunate French 
painters the brutal injunction to copy " antiquity 
in the raw.*' In this same Salon of 1785, which 



EMPIRE STYLE 17 

is a pivotal date, there was nothing else but 
the Devotion of Alcestis, Priam's Return with 
the Body of Hector, Mucias Scaevolas burning 
their hands, and other illustiations of Homer or 
Livy. 

In monumental architecture the Greek tri- 
umphs, even the archaic Greek. Much is talked 
about the temples of Selinus and Paestum and 
the " Paestum Style," in other words, the heaviest 
of primitive Doric has its fanatical devotees. 
Who could believe it ? It is not under 
Napoleon the First, but absolutely beginning 
from 1780 that the gloomy convent of the 
Capucins d' Ant in was built (now the Lycee 
Condorcet). Private architecture was naturally 
less offensive in anachronism ; but the Hotel de 
Salm (the Palace of the Legion of Honour) was 
constructed by Rousseau in a style that was 
already different, for example, from that of 
Bagatelle ; it was almost the Empire Style. And 
as much might be said for the Hotel d'Osmont, 
in the Rue Basse du Rempart, of the Hotel de 
Soubise, in the Rue de PArcade, and other works 
of Cellerier, Brongniart or Chalgrin. 

Internal decoration was changing at the same 
time. The boudoir of Marie-Antoinette at 
Fontainebleau already has the little octagonal 
panels, with cama'ieux, the Greek palm leaf 
ornaments, the slender rtnceaux out of which 
the characteristics of the Directoire Style are 
fashioned. The little mansion of pretty Mile. 
d'Hervieux in the Rue Chant ere ine, which 



i8 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

Brongniart had built at the beginning of the reign, 
then passed for the last word of the most refined 
luxury ; the ** belle impure '' has it newly de- 
corated from top to bottom in the Roman Style. 
And the sleeping chamber of the Comte d'Artois 
represents *'the tent of the God Mars," as if 
Percier and Fontaine had already arrived 

Many of the pieces belonging to the last years 
of the reign depart from the pure Louis XVI 
type. On the one hand, and this is especially 
true of the most luxurious pieces, tables or 
commodes of state meant for the royal apartments, 
a striking resemblance can be found to the decor- 
ative spaciousness of the Louis XIV Style. That 
is quite natural; the principle (borrowed from 
decorative motifs in ancient architecture, but 
without copying the general Greek or Roman 
forms) is in the main the same a century earlier. 
When a cabinet-maker, round about 1785, fears 
to '* sacrifice to the Graces " overmuch, and 
proposes to make pieces that shall be at the 
same time rich and severe and majestic, in a 
word, royal, he inevitably meets his predecessors 
of the end of the seventeenth century. There 
are at Fontainebleau and at Versailles certain 
clock-stands of gilt wood, certain console tables 
that, if one did not know their true history, one 
might fancy were made for the Roi-Soleil, 
although they were in reality made for Louis 
XVI. Besides, at this period, the Louis XIV 
Style was frankly copied; the cabinet-makers 
Montigny, Levasseur, Severin, had for their 



F GUILLAUMEBENEMAN19 

special line the copying or imitation of the 
sumptuous pieces of Andre-Charles BouUe in inlay 
of ebony, shell, and metals. 

From these new characteristics we will be able 
to distinguish another family of cabinet-makers, 
as different from Riesener and Carlin as Leleu, 
Saunier or Avril ; their chief will incontestably 
be Guillaume Beneman, who is represented in 
the Louvre, at Fontainebleau, and in the Wallace 
Collection, by commodes or under cupboards of 
a truly monumental kind. They are made of 
mahogany decorated with bronzes, and not in 
marquetry, but they make one think of the best 
works of BouUe by the grandeur of their style. 
The ornamental part of their facade is nearly 
always a great elliptical arch, shaped like a basket 
handle, which takes up the whole width and 
enframes a trophy of arms, a medallion in biscuit 
ware flanked by rinccaux\ the corner uprights 
are Corinthian pilasters, or sheaves of lances, 
and the feet toupie-shaped or lions' paws. 
The celebrated jewel cupboard of Marie An- 
toinette, by Schwerdfeger, with its polychrome 
ornamentation, somewhat overdone, and its legs 
terminating somewhat meanly, is decidedly in- 
ferior both to the maker's reputation and to the 
work of Beneman. 

Other pieces belonging to this period, instead 
of recalHng the style of Louis XIV, herald that 
of the Revolution and the Empire ; one may 
even say that they belong to it already. Certain 
tables have legs in the form of termini whose 



20 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

top part is a sphinx's head ; others are carried 
by those bizarre legs, copied from certain 
Pompeiian tripods, known as ^'pteds de bicht 
surmounted by caryatides," and showing plainly 
to what extent this generation lacked any critical 
sense in its admiration for antiquity. Equally dis- 
pleasing to the reason as to the eye, they are com- 
pounded of two parts treated on a totally different 
scale ; a deer's leg, the haunch ornamented with 
a human head surrounded with rinceaiix, is 
cut clean across, and this cross-section supports a 
little seated sphinx, which itself carries on its head 
and its uplifted wings the frame of the table. 

The collections of the designers of furniture 
are full of these purely antique models from 
before 1789: those of Lalonde, for instance, of 
Dugourc, of Aubert. . . . Besides the Roman 
tripods, we see in them seats with roll backs and 
legs curving outwards like those of a cathedrUy 
and X-shapedjstools that are precisely curule 
chairs. The cabinet-maker in whom the work 
of these innovators is summed up is Adam 
Weisweiler, who makes great use, by way of 
supports, of elegant metal caryatides, and makes 
atheniennes * " in the Herculanean Style," while 
at the same time admitting strange compromises, 
as in this ebony commode in which he has com- 
bined a pediment turned upside down, acroteria, 
and palm leaf ornaments come down in direct 
line from a Grecian tomb, with wonderful panels 
of old Japanese black and gold lacquer. 

To sum up, the Empire Style was formed 



I 



NEW IDEAS 21 

under Louis XVI, as the Louis XVI Style was 
formed under Louis XV, and the Louis XV Style 
under Louis XIV and the Regency ; the nomen- 
clature of our styles invariably lags behind their 
chronology. 

The Revolution then did not, even in Paris, 
bring a rapid change in the fashion of our 
ancestors' furnishing, It could not be, as the 
Goncourt brothers accused it of being, the cause 
of a movement that had begun several years 
earlier ; but it helped that movement and 
hastened it in every way, because it was going 
precisely in the direction that was necessary to 
satisfy the tastes of the Revolutionary generation, 
which enthusiastically admired the ancient 
republics, and which affected a severe austerity 
in the manner of Lycurgus and Cato. 

From the time of the Constituent Assembly, 
new ideas sweep over decoration and furniture 
as over every department of art. Everyone 
makes Greek pieces, more and more Greek ; but 
at the same time pieces that are still altogether 
Louis XVI are loaded with revolutionary emblems 
(Figs. 4 and 24). A certain " Sieur Boucher, a 
merchant upholsterer, well known," according to 
his own modest statement, " for the purity of his 
taste in matters of furnishing," advertises in 1790, 
in the /ournal de la Mode et du Gout^ ou 
Amusements du Salon et de la Toilette^ that 
he has just '' enriched his emporium with various 
articles in harmony with the circumstances of the 



22 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

day." These are, for example, ^^ patriotic beds 
with the symbols of liberty ; in place of plumes 
there are bonnets on the end of sheaves of lances, 
which form the bed posts ; they represent the 
triumphal arch erected on the Champ de Mars 
on the day of the Federation." Everywhere 
a disorded taste for allegories runs wild : it is 
nothing but fasces (strength as the result of 
union) ; Phrygian caps (Liberty recovered) ; 
spirit levels (equality) ; pikes (the freedom of 
man) ; oaken boughs (social virtues) ; triangles 
with an eye in the middle (reason) ; clasped 
hands (fraternity) ; tables of the law, etc., without 
counting the *' Captures of the Bastille " carved 
on so many cupboards (Fig, 4). 

But people tire quickly enough of these 
emblems. Three years go by (1792- 1795) during 
which the French industry, which lately turned 
out luxurious furniture for the whole of Europe 
(in 1789 it exported to the value of four million 
livres), is reduced by reason of the social agony, 
the foreign war, and the insurrection in the west, 
to an almost complete standstill. This is the 
moment when the goldsmith Odiot shuts his 
shop and fastens up on the door the following 
notice : ** Placed in the safe keeping of the 
pubhc, as the head of this house is in the army 
fighting against the enemies of his country." 
The few pieces now turned out by the Faubourg 
Saint-Antoine, and all those that will hereafter 
be turned out — whilst the provincial workshops 
go on making Louis XVI without wavering — 



ETRUSCAN BROWN 23 

are made in the antique style. Here is the 
description of an " antique arm-chair " at this 
precise moment : " the wood painted in grey 
white and varnished ; the feet of solid brass, 
highly polished ; the back roll-shaped ; the seat 
covered in silk with an arabesque design on a 
background of bleu (Voeil with a rosace in the 
centre on an Etruscan brown ground, and red 
ornaments." What is an Etruscan chair ? Here 
you are : " a chair in mahogany, the back made 
of three trumpets and a lyre bound together ; 
the cushion of brown silk stuff with a green 
rosace in the centre with yellow ornaments ; 
antique feet of solid brass, highly polished." 
These feet, these ''genuine antique feet" are 
simply toupie-shaped, broad and splayed out. 
As for the "Etruscan brown " (a hideous chocolate 
brown, vulgar and dull), it is a colour " in a new 
taste," with which everyone is at present much 
concerned in the upholsterers' world : " the 
happy blending " — it is still the Journal de la 
Mode ct du Gout speaking — '' the happy blending 
of several colours upon a very deep brown, which 
forms what is called the Etruscan Style, sets off 
materials in a way that we had never had any 
idea of till now." How far we are, with these 
green and yellow rosaces on an Etruscan brown 
ground, from those harmonies discreet and gay 
at the same time, that smart and elegant mixture 
of fresh bright hues the tapestry-weavers and the 
upholsterers of yore knew the secret of composing! 
So now it is that pieces no longer decorated 



24 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

with antique ornaments, but copied exactly from 
those that the excavations of Pompeii have 
brought to light, or that have been disclosed to us 
from ancient vases and bas-reliefs, are sanctioned 
by fashion ; still better, this is the official style 
of the Republic, and to adopt it is to display 
civic virtue, just like giving up wearing breeches 
and powder, like wearing the tricolour cockade, 
like calling your son Astyanax-Scaevola, as the 
painter Jean Bosio actually did. David did more 
than anyone else to impose this new style ; he 
had power to do it, being the important person 
he was under the Terror. The antique pieces in 
his studio, which he has brought into nearly all 
his historical pictures, were so celebrated that 
they deserve a brief mention. They had been 
made, in 1789 or 1790, by old Georges Jacob, 
the head of the dynasty, from designs by David 
himself and by his pupil Moreau. They were 
mahogany chairs, a kind of large arm-chair with 
an all mahogany back, very singular in appearance, 
round as a tower and ornamented with bronzes, 
a curule chair whose Xes ended in lions' heads 
and lions' paws ; and that day-bed of the purest 
lines, on which the painter stretched out the 
charming person of Madame Recamier. These 
chairs were furnished with cushions and draperies 
in red woollen stuff with palm designs in black : 
David had naively reproduced in them the 
colours of Greek vases of red earthenware with 
black figures, from which, when designing them, 
he had taken his inspiration. 



SUPPRESSION OF GUILDS 25 

It was David too who had the order for the 
furniture for the Convention given to Georges 
Jacob and two young architects and designers, 
then quite unknown and very poor, already 
partners for life, and for whom this affair was 
the beginning of fortune : Pierre Fontaine and 
Charles Percier. Soon after the production of 
this furniture Georges Jacob retired from business, 
leaving the management of the huge workshop in 
the Rue Meslay, or Meslee, to his sons, the third 
one of whom, Francois Honore, was destined, 
under the name of Jacob Desmalter, to eclipse 
the others and become the king of cabinet-makers 
in the Imperial epoch. 

^ The Guilds, masterships, wardenships were all, 
as is well known, suppressed by the Revolution. 
From the social point of view this was un- 
doubtedly a point of progress ; from the technical 
point of view also, perhaps, in certain industries 
that heretofore had been matters of routine ; but 
certainly not from the artistic point of view. To 
suppress all this strict body of rules and regula- 
tions governing the ancient trade corporations 
was to suppress their traditions, the careful, 
thorough training of the craftsmen, and certain 
rules of professional honour. Marat himself had 
expressed fears in the Ami du Peuple: "With 
this doing away of all novitiate, the workers no 
longer take any trouble about solidity and finish, 
work is rushed, dashed off. ... I do not know 
whether I am mistaken or not, but I should not 
be surprised if in twenty years time it will be 



26 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

impossible to find a single workman in Paris who 
knows how to make a hat or a pair shoes." 
Marat's fears were excessive with regard to hats 
and shoes ; but it is certain that artistic industries 
such as furniture- making started to decline, 
beginning with this reform, except for the 
magnificent furniture de luxe made under the 
Empire — and in any case made by workmen who 
had been trained and fashioned in the ancient 
corporations. 

Another reason for this decadence is the change 
in the clientele of cabinet-makers and joiners. 
As soon as the Terror was over the various in- 
dustries returned to life, orders flowed into the 
re-opened workshops, and if it is true that the 
** Directoire Style " either scarcely exists at all or 
actually existed earlier than the government of 
the Directors and was destined to outlive it, it is 
also most true that the greater part of the pieces 
that are grouped under this description were 
made after 1795, because during the preceding 
years hardly any had been made at all. But the 
Directoire is 2, plutocracy^ and as nearly all the old 
fortunes had been swept away, this plutocracy is 
a regime of nouveaux riches. Some are the 
"nantis," the "corrupted" of the political 
world, admirers and imitators of Barras ; others 
have speculated in army supplies ; the most have 
grown rich by buying the goods of the nation for 
a song ; all are parvenus without taste, without 
traditions, who mean to enjoy as rapidly as pos- 
sible a fortune that may be fragile, and make the 



THE NOUVEAUX RICHES 27 

utmost possible display of it. But they do not 
know the art of spending royally, like a grand 
seigneur or fermier general of the old time, who 
set a high value upon fine things ; they bargain 
and are stingy in giving their orders ; for them 
work must be done quickly and cheap, with 
economy both in material and workmanship. 
Hence the general meanness of furniture during 
the last years of the century. They might, those 
nouveaux riches, have acquired, and could still 
acquire for a sheaf of assignats^ the masterpieces 
of Riesener and Oeben, but they prefer to sur- 
round themselves with bran new pieces, made 
expressly for them, for which we should be 
wrong to blame them. It is only just to say it : 
these '' articles of furniture and objects of taste " 
— ^that is the name La Mesangere, the director 
of the Journal des Modes et des Dames, gives, in his 
famous collection of models, to the furniture in 
fashion at the time — were much sought after 
abroad, and began once more to be exported in 
spite of the wars waged by the Republic against 
so many coalitions. 

The imitation of the antique was more than 
ever the supreme law ; we know the Merveilleuses 
all had the ambition to be clothed — or unclothed 
— Uke Sappho, and it was about this time that 
Madame Vigee-Lebrun gave the memorable 
dinner described in her Souvenirs, at which the 
guests were crowned wdth roses, draped in the 
antique fashion, reclining on couches on their 
elbows, and ate ''Spartan black broth," drinking 



28 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

out of "Etruscan" goblets and singing, to the 
accompaniment of a lyre, hymns to Bacchus 
punctuated with cries of " Evoe ! " 

The most celebrated interior of the last years 
of the RepubHc was the one that Madame 
Recamier had had decorated and furnished by the 
fashionable upholsterer Berthaud, under the 
guidance of Percier, Fontaine and Bellange. The 
sleeping chamber was all in mahogany, from the 
pilasters on the walls, the door cases, the doors, 
down to the smallest article of furniture ; all this 
severe red-brown was relieved by some inlay of 
citron wood and silver fillets ; for hangings red 
velvet, and on the chairs Beauvais tapestry viith 
flowers and fruits of brilliant colours on a deep 
brown ground — the famous Etruscan fashion ! 
Furthermore, architraves of polished violet 
granite, architectural motifs in oriental alabaster ; 
curtains of chamois, violet and black, draped in 
the most complicated fashion. Such were the 
colours in vogue. 

There was much talk too of the little mansion 
General Buonaparte had bought, on his return 
from the campaign in Italy, from Talma. It 
was in the Rue Chantereine, which then became 
the Rue de la Victoire. The furniture, as be- 
fitted the conqueror of Areola and Rivoh, was 
nothing but symbols of war and victory; for 
seats, arm-chairs of ebony inlaid with silver, and 
stools that were drums, with their cords stretched 
round a barrel of yellow hide ; a mahogany 
commode with lions' heads; a bed "painted 



ALLEGORICAL FURNITURE 29 

antique bronze " ; a bureau, the bronze ornaments 
on which were Roman glaives. 

After the Egyptian campaign, in which a kind 
of archaeological staff duplicated the military 
staff of the hero, there could not fail to come a 
fit of Egyptomania. It did come, and it was 
then that Vivant-Denon, one of the savants that 
had followed the expedition, both archaeologist 
and architect at the same time,* had a bedroom 
fitted up by Jacob Desmalter to his own designs, 
which aimed at being of the purest Pharaonic 
style. The bed, of mahogany inlaid with silver, 
had three faces ornamented with bas-reliefs of rows 
of kneeling figures ; its head was decorated with a 
carved Isis, and the legs with the Uraeus symbol. 
Numerous Egyptian pieces will presently figure in 
the collection of designs by Percier and Fontaine. 

All this was in arguable taste ; but what is to 
be said of so much other allegorical furniture that 
passed at this time for the latest word in art ? 
For a " warrior " who seeks recreation and relax- 
ation between two campaigns, from the noble 
works of Bellona, here is a bedroom that is a 
soldier's tent, whose hangings are held up by 
pilces ; everywhere are hung trophies of weapons, 
glaives and shields ; the posts of the couch, which 
is in the shape of a camp bed, aie surmounted by 
the helmets of Greek hoplites. 

A "disciple of Actseon " (for this read "a 
great hunter ") has his chamber transformed into 
a temple of Diana. The ceiling has two sloped 
* The Vendome Column is his work. 



30 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

sides, like the roof of a Greek temple ; the bed is 
under a canopy with a pediment, upheld on four 
slender columns. For ornaments, a bust of 
Diana flanked by two stags' heads at the peak of 
the pediment ; dogs, bows, arrows, etc. Behind 
the bed, on the back wall, a bas-relief, Diana and 
Endymion. In the foreground two termini 
representing Silence and Night, one with a finger 
on his lips and holding a cornucopia full of 
poppies, the other bearing a torch. The roof 
'* appears to be upborne on open pillars, which 
allow the beholder to perceive," in painting, "the 
verdure of the trees among which it is supposed 
this little temple has been erected." And this 
too is still Percier and Fontaine. 

After these extravagances, half archaeological 
half symbolic, the Empire Style, properly so 
called, will be, in spite of its persistent pedantry, 
a real return to reason and simplicity. 

On the 1 8th Brumalre, in the year VIII, 
France gives herself to her hero. It is not yet 
the Empire, but, as far as the domain of art goes, 
the reign of Napoleon begins. The First Consul 
dreams at once of peace, offers peace to England, 
speaks of nothing but the works of peace. ** We 
must lay aside our jack-boots," he says, "and 
think of commerce, encourage the arts, give 
prosperity to our country." One of his first 
cares is to re-establish French luxury and refine- 
ment in its glorious traditions, to remake a 
court little by little. He wishes to have palaces, 



ADVENT OF NAPOLEON 31 

if not built for him, at least decorated and 
furnished for him. He begins by employing 
Percier and Fontaine, who are presented to him 
by David, to restore and furnish Malmaison, 
which Josephine has bought in 1798. Hencefor- 
ward Napoleon will never wish to have any other 
architect or decorator for his great official fetes 
but the two inseparable friends ; the doing up of 
Saint Cloud will come after Malmaison, then the 
Tuileries, the Louvre, etc. We may say that 
the coup (Tetat of Brumaire, and all that 
followed from it, has been an inexpressible boon 
for our artistic industries. It is not that Napoleon 
had any passion for art, nor that he had a great 
deal of taste ; the setting in which his devouring 
activity moved, when he was not on campaign, 
was a matter of profound indifference to him — 
he did not even see it. But it was part of his 
scheme of policy to want to have about him a 
soHd and grandiose luxury, fitted to give a lofty 
impression of his power ; he was imperious, 
always in a hurry, abounding in colossal projects 
quickly cast aside ; but he opened his coffers 
wide, and when he had once given an artist his 
confidence he never withdrew it without good 
reason. It must be admitted, also, that men like 
David, Percier, and Fontaine were wonderfully 
made to fit in with him. 

: Of the two latter it may be said that they were 

the creators of^the official Empire^^Style. ,'^Was it 

for the good of French decorative art or the 

^-reverse ? The answer is not in doubt. The de- 

I 



32 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

fects of Empire art, coldness, aridness, continual 
anachronisms, are not to be imputed to them. 
It would have had those faults without them 
(for it had them already) even if they had not 
been the whole-hearted admirers of the Ancients 
which they always showed themselves. On the 
other hand, they were architects in their souls, 
and their architectural qualities they gave to all 
their projects of decoration and furnishing ; they 
had a lofty imagination, grandeur and simplicity 
of taste, they understood their epoch and the 
Napoleonic regime to a hair ; their conception 
may displease us, or chill us, but we cannot deny 
that it was admirably appropriate to its destined 
use. Can any praise be greater ? 

Can there be conceived for this epoch, when 
national pride straightened every frame, when 
warlike enthusiasm hovered in the air and swelled 
every bosom, when glory inflamed every youthful 
brain, when every will was stiff and proud, when 
military despotism was imposed upon the nation 
by virtue of its conquests, can there be conceived 
other furniture or another style of decoration 
than those on which, upon broad austere surfaces, 
marked out by straight lines and sharp edges, 
there were hung swords and triumphing palms 
were displayed, and golden Victories postured 
with widespread wings ? It is because they 
profoundly felt this fitness and harmony that 
Percier and Fontaine were great artists. 

This style, so highly appropriate to Imperial 
France, was nevertheless, in spite of the slow 



AN ARTIFICIAL STYLE 33 

elaboration we have described, not in the pure 
national tradition ; it was not sprung spon- 
taneously from our own soil and under our own 
skies ; it had something abstract and arbitrary, 
something imposed on our taste as the regime 
itself was imposed on the nation. In short, 
there have been styles that are far more truly 
French. There is a contradiction here, someone 
will say. It is in appearance only. The truth 
is that France was then at a quite exceptional 
moment in her long existence. The fever of 
conquest that had come after the revolutionary 
fever had broken the equilibrium of her tempera- 
ment ; she was beside herself at this moment 
when her history seems to be pure legend. The 
Empire Style was very exactly befitting for 
France as she was from 1800 to 18 15, but to 
that France only, not the eternal France. When 
it found favour once more with artists and 
public, between 1890 and 1895, it was, let us 
confess it, a quite artificial movement. 

What clearly shows that this style is something 
international — in any case the imitation of 
antiquity from which it proceeded was by no 
means specially French ; think of Canova, 
Thorwaldsen, Angelica Kaufmann, and other. — 
is the enthusiasm with which it was adopted at 
once by all nations, whether they were subjected 
to Napoleon's domination or not. Never perhaps 
had French decorative art such expansive force. 
Jacob Desmalter (almost always following the 
models of Percier and Fontaine) furnished_not 



34 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

only Malmaison, Compiegne, Saint Cloud, Fon- 
tainebleau, the Elysee, without reckoning so 
many private mansions in Paris, but also the 
Escurial, Aranjuez, Windsor Castle, and countless 
palaces and mansions in Antwerp, Maycnce, 
Pntsdam, and even as far as Petrogad. 

But when this species of exaltation subsided 
in France, and the Empire was succeeded by the 
Restoration, that royalty devoid of glory, that 
peaceful, bourgeois, somewhat flat and dull period 
of our history, the decadence was immediate and 
profound ; the Empire Style was preserved in a 
haphazard fashion, for want of knowing what to 
put in its place, but at the same time its 
character was changed in the direction of 
heaviness and flabbiness ; it degenerated very 
speedily, because there was no longer harmony 
between it and the manners of the time. 



SECOND PART 
THE LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 



CHAPTER ONE: CHARACTER- 
ISTICS AND TECHNIQUE 
OF THE LOUIS XVI STYLE 

The least instructed eye can tell at the first 
glance a Louis XVI piece from a Louis XV ; 
and yet there is no essential or fundamental 
difference such as there is between the style of 
Louis XV and that of Louis XIV. It is because 
manners and customs are at bottom the same 
after 1760 as before that date, and will remain 
the same until 1789 ; now, only a transformation 
in manners and customs can bring about a 
radical change in furniture fashions. We have 
determined the approximate date when the new 
style replaced the old ; at this date Louis XV 
is still on the throne, and in spite of his age 
his ways have not altered. Madame du Barry 
succeeds Madame de Pompadour, and it is 
merely one degree more of abasement. It is for 
this Lange woman, become Comtesse du Barry, 
that the paviHon of Louveciennes was built and 
furnished ; that vanished marvel which, without 
any doubt, was the most exquisite masterpiece of 
the Louis XVI Style. The aristocracy and the 
wealthy bourgeoisie are always the same in the 
round, equally eager for the life of society and 
for pleasure, equally denuded of moral sense ; 
but if they take good care not to practise virtue, 

37 



38 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

just as Diderot and Rousseau did, they have fallen 
to adoring it with emotion in other people. 

That senile blase society had its living allegory 
in old Marquise du Deffand ; by dint of adven- 
tures, satirical conversations, wit spent^jwith 
heedless prodigality, by dint of scepticism, and of 
having been through everything, she had fallen 
into a state of profound ennui, which was a 
genuine malady and one that she believed to be 
incurable ; and lo ! at seventy years or near it, 
she was seized with a passion, one of those passions 
that take complete possession of a soul, an absurd 
and touching passion for Horace Walpole, whom, 
as she was blind, she had never seen. . . . Like 
her, eighteenth century society had its senti- 
mental fit,, rather late in Hfe. The virtue, 
the sensibility (they are the same things in the 
minds of the people of this epoch), the simplicity 
of the ancient days and " natural " men are all 
the fashion, but merely a fashion. Women of 
quality continue to go every night to the Opera 
or the new Opera Comique, and in what extrava- 
gant array ! but the pieces they listen to are 
called le Bon Filsy le Bon Seigneur^ V Amour 
Pater7ial, or la Suivante reconnatssante^ and 
if they are young mothers, as they have read 
Smiley they have their babies brought to them 
during the interval and suckle them in their 
box in such a way as to be in full view while 
doing so. Philanthropy is a novelty which 
becomes the rage, and on every chiffonier the 
Mcrcure de France meets with the Annales 



A SOPHISTICATED SOCIETY 39 

de la Bienfaisance and the Etrennes de la 
Vertu, newspapers founded to advertise the 
virtuous doings of fashionable folk. The financier 
on his v^ay, accompanied by some " modern 
Terpsichore," to a smart party in the little house 
in the suburbs, was happy to stop his coach on 
the way to give alms, shedding gentle tears the 
while, to some poor but respectable aged man 
caught sight of on the wayside. Everyone 
delights to exclaim, '' Simplicity ! Virtue ! what 
charms ye hold for feeling mortals ! " but luxury 
becomes more and more unbridled. Palates are 
weary of too learned gravies and over-seasoned 
bisques, and it is a delicious pleasure to pay a 
visit to a farm and dip a slice of home-made 
bread in a pitcher of hot milk ; but they will be 
back for supper again next day. The typical men 
of this generation are Diderot, who alternates so 
naively his blackguardism and his tearful ex- 
hortations to virtue, and Greuze, who so much 
delights to shp spicy innuendos into his studies of 
girls as into his large melodramatic pictures. 

Such is the double character of Society under 
Louis XVI ; at bottom epicurean and worldly, 
just as in the first half of the century, it never- 
theless loves simplicity, virtue and reason. Let 
us repeat that it returns to a taste for Greco- 
Roman antiquity, and there you have the 
principal elements of the style. The task of 
architects, designers, cabinet-makers and joiners, 
metal casters and engravers, up to the end of the 
old regime, is to be to harmonise the taste for snug 



40 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

comfort, intimacy, attaching grace, the most 
exquisite refinement, which marked the highest 
and the middle classes in French society of the 
time, with the noble and simple beauty of 
antiquity. Refined simplicity, a sober elegance, 
neatness and precision, softened by abundant 
grace ; such is the ideal, Antiquity will then be 
interpreted and made French as in the noble 
days of the Renaissance, and when archaelogy is 
in conflict with what is comfortable and pleasing, 
so much the worse for archaeology ; it must needs 
give way. 

In fine, in spite of the progress in the science 
of antiquity, in spite of exhumed Pompeii, what 
was best known in ancient art about 1760 was 
Roman architecture. Accordingly it is Roman 
architecture that gives the tone to the new style. 
Furniture falls again under the yoke of architec- 
ture, which it had shaken off, for the first time 
and for a little while during the reign of the 
grotto. 

"There are," said Delacroix, "certain lines 
that are monsters : the straight line, the regular 
serpentine, above all two parallel lines." These 
monsters are henceforth and for a long time to 
rule in furniture. Roman architecture, in fact, 
is primarily a family of lines ; the straight line 
and the semi-circular arch, the horizontal parallels 
of cornices, the vertical parallels of pilasters and 
their flutings ; right angles too ; that is to say, 
the negation of all sinuous lines like those of 
nature — if indeed there be any lines in nature — 



GEOMETRY IN DESIGN 41 

the sweet living lines that the Louis XV Style had 
placed everywhere for the delight of our eyes. 
Henceforth commodes no longer fear to look 
like "a box perched up on four laths," except 
those that Hnk their fagade with the wall against 
which they stand by two little quarter-cyhndrical 
cupboards, or by shelves shaped to quarter circles 
full or re-entrant ; except again those that v^dll 
retain supports slightly tending to pied de biche 
shape under their chamfered angles. This kind 
continued to be made up till towards the end of 
the style. 

Quantities of arches, semi-circular or elliptical, 
on top of panels of woodwork (Fig. 2), mirrors, 
chair backs (Figs. 48, 50, ']S)^ numbers of ellipses 
also; frames of panels (Fig. 2) upon walls, borders 
for mirrors and pictures, medallion-shaped chair 
backs (Figs. 41, etc.), tables large and small, 
console tables (Figs. 31, 32), folding tables, com- 
modes, even armoires (Fig. 5) are very frequently 
semi-circular in ground plan. In short, the im- 
personal traced with ruler and square and compass 
constantly takes the place of freehand designs, the 
fancy of the crayon and the graving-tool. All 
this geometry has in it something abstract, some- 
thing purely rational^ calculated to please mathe- 
matical minds, like that of d'Alembert, for in- 
stance, or Condillac's ; but it would be very arid 
if it was not almost always mitigated by the more 
living grace of the ornaments. Many Louis XVI 
pieces follow this principle of the straight line to 
the very end, and do not comprise a single curve 



42 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

(Figs. 20, 26, etc.). The excess of abstraction and 
dryness cannot then be denied. On the other 
hand, this uncompromising rigidness, these joins 
that are all made at right angles, satisfy the reason 
by defining with complete and perfect distinctness 
every part of the piece, by respecting to the 
utmost the grain of the wood, and by giving the 
joints the maximum of soHdity and strength. No 
doubt, but how cold it all is ! 

Ancient architecture brought back also absolute 
symmetry in form and in ornament ; never more 
do designers offend, except for insignificant details 
of decoration (flowers, ribbons, etc.), against the 
venerable rule of the identity of the corre- 
sponding parts to the right and to the left of a 
centre Hne. 

Another principle, architectural in its origin ; 
the definition of a surface, devoid of ornament, 
by a border or several parallel borders taking the 
place of ornamentation. Numbers of pieces 
have no other decoration (Figs. 6, 17, 21) ; large 
bare surfaces are in high favour ; " the sublime 
and virtuous nudity of the Greeks," as David 
said, exists for mahogany and stone as well as for 
the human body ; and when that mahogany is of 
a very handsome quality, veined, figured, with a 
warm patina from age, nothing more by way of 
ornamentation need be desired. These framings 
are generally mouldings in gilt bronze, or covered 
with brass ; sometimes, especially at the latter 
end of the epoch, they are simple bands of brass 
embedded in the wood (Fig. 35). When the 



i SIMPLEX MUNDITIIS 43 

piece contains no brass, they are thin strips of 
wood, the colour of which stands out against that 
of the background. 

As for the shape of the panels thus defined, they 
are squares, rectangles, arches accompanied by 
corner pieces of the same border or a triangular 
rosace of acanthus leaf, ellipses, circles. The 
rectangular panels are often sloped off at the 
angles, either rounded off or squared off, and this 
slope is adorned with a small round rosace. One 
very favourite panel also, on commodes and 
escritoires with flaps (those made by Riesener 
particularly), is a trapezium, the oblique sides of 
which are concave. 

The form of moulding is changed. There is 
now less than on Louis XV pieces ; it is flatter, 
more austere, more uniform alsa; in general it 
obeys the laws of the ancient kinds ; ogee, 
doucine, scotia, cavetto, apophysis, all auto- 
matically combined, without any fanciful effects, 
with fillets and baguets. 

These elements are poor enough ; they do not 
offer any very varied resources to artists. How 
is it then that so many Louis XVI pieces give so 
full an impression of grace or beauty ? First of 
all by their proportions, which are nearly always 
exquisitely right, by the faultless equilibrium 
of balanced masses, the harmonious division 
of surfaces, the importance of the framing 
calculated with exactitude according to that 
of the parts enclosed by the frame. In these 
matters tact has perhaps never been so sure as 



44 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

in the epoch of Louis XVI. And then the 
ornamentation came with the same sureness of 
taste to add to a somewhat bare whole just 
what richness was needed within the limits of 
deliberate sobriety. 

The essential difference between the orna- 
mentation of pieces belonging to the Louis XV 
period and that of Louis XVI pieces is that the 
latter most frequently proceeds by way of 
repetition of similar elements arranged in lines 
or combined in a running motif. This also is a 
legacy from ancient architecture. Such a decora- 
tion can be made, so to speak, by the yard, 
which facilitates to a distressing degree cheap- 
jack imitation, even machine made imitation of 
Louis XVI pieces. 

Another characteristic common to the majority 
of the ornaments of the Louis XVI Style is the 
small scale on which they are treated by carvers, 
and especially by the artists in bronze. It 
appears that they never find their motives 
sufficiently finished and delicate, sufficiently em- 
bellished w'th little details that serve to display 
the cunning of their engraving tool. A furniture 
bronze is treated like a piece of goldsmith's work, 
and a piece of goldsmith's work like a gem. This 
fault, for it is a fault — ^let us call it affectation — 
comes without a doubt, as has been well observed, 
from the passion both men and women of the 
time had for small articles, the toys, "brimborions " 
as they were called, such as were bought at the 
famous shop, the Petit Dunkerque ; little fancy 



DECORATIVE MOTIFS 45 

boxes of gold, enamelled or chased (with the 
inscription Don d* Amitie — " friendship's gift "), 
little boxes of pale tortoise shell, with gold inlay 
or piqu6 work, handles of walking canes in painted 
china, coat buttons with miniatures, incense boxes 
of mother-of-pearl pierced and engraved. . . , 
These thousand and one knick-knacks, whose tiny 
ornamentation, marvellous in its finish, has 
something Japanese about it, had accustomed 
the eye to a singularly reduced scale of decora- 
tion ; so much so that the superb amplitude of the 
Louis XIV and Louis XV ornaments passed for 
coarseness. Let us be quite frank; for less sophisti- 
cated eyes a bronze by the great Gouthiere 
cuts a sorry figure beside a bronze by Caffieri. 

The running ornaments most generally used 
are denticiiles^ godrons^^ entrelacs^^ formed of 
two interlacing ribbons which very often enclose 
rosaces in their bows ; oves,^ a succession of egg- 
shaped projections, rais de coeur, lines of small 
fcuilles deaUy not indented, or feutlles 
d^acanthe ; fret decoration on plain friezes ; 
rinceauXy^ tores {or boudtns) of bay or oak leaves '; 
rubans enroules ^ around baguets ; rangs de 

' Fig. 5. 

" See the chapeau top of the arm-chair in Fig. 38. 

• Framing of the cupboard doors in Fig. 4; the drawer of the 
escritoire (Fig. 16), etc. 

* Cornice of the cupboard (Fig. 4). 

* Top of the cupboard (Fig. 4). 

« Fixed central part of the same cupboard (Fig. 4). 

• The same (Fig. 4) on the lower part of the cornice ; framing 
on the drawers of the commode (Fig. 24), 



46 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

piastres ^ that ought rather to be called rangs de 
sapeques^ for more than anything else they 
resemble those coins current in the Far East, 
pierced in the middle and strung on a rush tie ; 
ioncs or reeds fastened by an intertwined ribbon ; 
cotes bound by acanthus leaves ; chap lets of olives 
and beads alternating ; rangs de perles ^; and 
lastly the ornament far the most frequently 
employed of all, because it is made quickly and 
easily with a gouge ; rows of short cannelures * 
or flutings covering friezes, traverses and string 
courses. 

Among the other ornamental motifs^ the 
following are the principal that were borrowed 
from ancient architecture. First and foremost 
the column^ detached, or more frequently en- 
gaged, at the angles of commodes, escritoires, and 
chiffoniers.* The base is turned, the shaft 
generally fluted. It is well known how great 
use this style made of cannelures ^ which were 
called rather canaiix. Sometimes they were 
plain, sometimes rudente, that is to say, each 
one filled to a certain distance from the base with a 
baguet ; if the fiUing is plain it is given the name 
of chandelle^ and if it ends in a carved motif 
like a half opened bud or a head of corn, it is 
known as asperge? Very much used are imita- 
tion flutings of marquetry with burnt shading,^ 

* Back of the arm-chair (Fig. 38) ; arm consoles (Figs. 40 and 47) 

2 See the cupboard, Fig. 7. 

» Figs. 20, 26, 28, etc. * Figs. 14, 25. 

» Figs. 6, 14, 25, etc. « Figs. 48, 50, etc. 

7 Figs. 29, 47. « Fig. 15. 



THE CARYATID APPEARS 47 

pilastres * ^ are fluted in a similar way ; the 
balustres * that serve as supports for the arms of 
chairs are frequently, as also are the legs of chairs,* 
given a spiral instead of a vertical fluting. The 
capitals of columns and pilasters are Ionic or 
Corinthian ; the Ionic capital often carries a 
garland hanging from the centre of the volutes. 
Tovi^ards the end of the Louis XVI period the 
capital is replaced by a circular moulding covered 
with brass. ^ For the column may be substituted 
the caryatid ; in the eighteenth century, this 
name was given not merely to a human figure or 
a terminus, but any animal, fabulous or other- 
wise (a seated female sphinx, for example), any 
bust or torso acting as a support. 

The console is employed, such as it is, with 
two volutes as its extremities, or more or lesss 
modified, whether as the support of a console 
table* or as a chide*; it is often ornamented 
with a garland. It was also as chutes, or 
rinceaux* at the base of the tabliers^ of 
commodes that cabinet-makers used triglyphs,^ 
ornaments borrowed from the Doric frieze, and 
composed of two grooves and two half-grooves 
hollowed or cut through in a bronze plate, under 
which there hung the gouttes, a kind of small 
pyramid suspended by the apex. 

^ Fig. 21. 
^ Fig. 40 

» Figs. 14, 17, etc, 
' Fig. 33. 

' See the chutes of the commode in Fig. 28, etc. 

E 



48 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

It would be too long to describe all these 
antique ornaments ; let us merely call attention, 
in the animal kingdom, to the Roman eagles,^ 
the dolphins, the heads of lions,^ rams, goats, the 
hucranes^ or bull's skulls, the pieds de btche 
(an exact reproduction of the animal's leg, and no 
longer, as under Louis XVI, a far-off interpreta- 
tion) ; then the whole series of mythological 
monsters, sphinxes, male and female, griffons, 
chimaeras, sirens ; then in the vegetable world, 
garlands and chutes de guirlafides^ of every 
kind, wreaths of ivy, bay, flowers ; rinceaux* of 
foHage, especially of acanthus leaf,*^ which is so 
supple in adapting itself to every method of use, 
alone or combined in " grotesques " with the 
human face or animals' masks, and which this 
period has succeeded in making so elegant ; the 
pine cone,^ the pomegranate, the Bacchante's 
thyrsus, the caduceus. . . . Lastly, objects made 
by man : bows, quivers,^ antique urns ^ (which 
curio dealers disrespectfully call soup tureens !), 
garlanded, draped, set up on top of lambrequins ; 
fire balls, perfume burners, tripods, etc. 

Certain things were borrowed also from the 
Renaissance, such as the vertical string courses of 

* Top of the cupboard in Fig. 4. 

» Arm of the chair in Fig. 38. 

' Commode (Fig. 24), consoles in Figs. 31 and 33. 

*■ Woodwork in Figs. I and 2, etc. 

" Console (Fig. 33); bergeres (Figs. 51 and 52, etc). 

fi Fig. 76. 

7 Fig. 2. 

» Figs. 3, 7» 9, etc. 



VOGUE OF MAHOGANY 49 

arabesques, imitated from those of Giovanni of 
Udine in the Loggias of the Vatican, and the 
grotesque masks or mascarons, half human half 
vegetable. Finally, many of the motifs are 
quite modern, and common to the Louis XV and 
Louis XVI styles; baskets of flowers, of fruits, 
branches of laurel, or oak, or ivy, roses, lilies, 
scattered, crossed, or hung from ribbons ; the 
knots of ribbons ^ so much used and abused by 
this epoch; little profile medallions and all the 
symbols ; of v^ar, music, the sciences, agriculture, 
the pastoral life, fishing, commerce ; lovers' 
trophies hung from bows of ribbon ; draperies of 
fringed or tasselled stuff forming a frieze or a 
chute. '^ 

Working cabinet-makers, in the time of 
Louis XV, had carried the perfection of their 
technique so far that there remained but little of 
any importance to be discovered in this domain. 
Certain of their technical secrets are even lost, 
like that of the Martin lacquer. 

The same kinds of wood are used, native woods 
and foreign ; above all mahogany, which comes in 
greater quantities from the Antilles, enjoys extra- 
ordinary favour. Marie Antoinette's boudoir at 
Fontainebleau is completely parqueted with it. 
What is something new, chairs are made of it ; 
it is used for the most part in large surfaces of plain 
veneer. Ebony, rather given up as too austere, 

' Figs, 37, 43, etc. « Fig. 24. 



50 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

under Louis XV, now reappears. The method 
of working the wood does not alter, but the 
return to straight Hnes makes it possible to use 
much more turning, for the legs of furniture, 
for balusters, and pillars ; and the guild of wood 
turners becomes one with that of the joiners. 

The preceding epoch had seen the appearance 
of porcelain plaques embedded in the panels of 
very elaborate and costly pieces ; this trick, which 
is assuredly an error in logic and in taste, becomes 
general in small escritoires for ladies, round 
breakfast tables, jardinieres, and other very refined 
pieces, in proportion as the Sevres china becomes 
more plentiful and more perfect. The little 
bas-reliefs of Wedgwood in biscuit ware on a blue 
ground begin to show themselves beside the 
flowerets of Sevres. 

Towards the end of the reign, the need of 
finding something novel, though there should be 
nothing new left under the sun, led cabinet- 
makers to risk innovations that were more or less 
happy. For example, the inlaying of brass in 
wood in the shape of bands and little plaques ; 
mouldings covered with brass, flutings adorned 
with brass,^ plaques of gilded bronze with 
parallel horizontal stripes above the legs of pieces 
of furniture.^ Tables, round tripod tables (called 
atheniennes)^ console tables, are made, except 
the top, which is porphyry or onyx, all of metal, 
gilded bronze, bronze with antique green patina, 

* Figs. 14, 21, etc. ' Fig. 14. 



ECCENTRICITIES 51 

wrought and gilded iron, steel inlaid with silver ; 
Weisweiler attempts ornaments of pierced brass 
on a ground of polished steel. At the same time, 
others had the strange notion of painting designs 
in oils on the background of natural wood, a 
decoration that had no permanence when it was 
left bare, and that was very ugly when it was 
covered with glass. Still others would cover a 
piece with lozenges of mother-of-pearl. . . . All 
these eccentric attempts are clear symptoms of 
decadence. 



CHAPTER II : PANELLED 
FURNITURE AND TABLES 

The Louis XVI Style, as we have said, only came 
to its full development in Paris and in the largest 
cities in the kingdom. In the depths of the 
provinces, where the fashions hardly changed at 
all, and especially did not change quickly, it only 
took its place late and in part in the habits 
of the furniture makers. They only, it appears, 
abandoned the goodly Louis XV shapes, with 
which they had achieved such remarkable results, 
after having remained obstinately faithful to them 
as long as they could. Very often the only con- 
cession they made to the new fashion was to 
add the " antique " mofz/s to the repertoire of 
the ornaments they employed. 

That is especially remarkable with regard to the 
armoires and buffets of the provinces ; one might 
be tempted to catalogue them nearly all as 
" transition " pieces, if one did not know that the 
most salient Louis XV characteristics were main- 
tained until the beginning of the nineteenth 
century. As, on the other hand, the Paris work- 
shops, where fashions were followed, only turned 
out a small number of cupboards, we must not 
be surprised at the scarcity of those that are 
homogeneously Louis XVI in their lines as in 
their ornamentation. 

The Normandy cupboard reproduced in Fig. 3 



REVOLUTIONARY EMBLEMS 53 

is one of these ; the straight line dominates it, 
each of its panels is symmetrical, and all the 
details of its decoration, which is of an exquisite 
elegance, are borrowed from the architecture of 
the ancients or of the sixteenth century. 

But here (Fig. 4) is the armoire in the Car- 
navalet Museum, known as the armoire " of the 
taking of the Bastille." It is precisely dated by 
the motif in bas-relief on the left hand panel, 
which has given it its name, and by the symbols 
of the three orders of the nation carved on the 
middle upright ; above, the crosier of the Clergy ; 
in the middle the spade topped by the Phrygian 
cap, the emblem of the emancipated Third Estate ; 
below the sword denoting the Nobility. Note 
still other revolutionary emblems ; the flags above 
the leaves of the doors, the pikes on the rounded 
angles of the armoire. It was made, therefore, in 
1790 or 1 791 ; none the less, the shape of the 
panels and that of the bottom cross piece are com- 
pletely Louiv XV, as is the contorted shape of 
the front feet. 

The large half-moon armoire from the Gironde, 
seen in Fig. 5, is also a compromise between the 
two styles ; the shape of the panels, of the lower 
cross pieces, of the feet is Louis XV ; all the rest 
clearly belongs to the style of the next epoch. 
So, too, this other armoire from the Gironde 
(Fig. 6), superb in its refined simplicity (it is 
made of very beautiful solid mahogany), is hardly 
Louis XVI except by the flutings of its fausse 
tartie dormante* gnd of its chamfered corners, 



54 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

and by the somewhat dry distinctness of the 
moulding of the cornice. 

On the other hand, many Normandy cupboards 
of this epoch affect the most tortuous Hnes, as if 
the Rococo style was still dominant, and carry a 
regular medley of carvings in high relief, where 
rows of ovolos, chaplets of beads, modillions * 
with acanthus leaves meet with the rinceaux and 
the " haricots " that were the foundation of the 
Louis XV ornamentation. In Provence it is 
better still ; the armoires called garde robes, 
those handsome large armoires of pale cherry, or 
walnut unctuous to the finger, always date from 
the Louis XVI epoch when their decoration is 
all flowery with roses, narcissi, suns intermingled 
with emblems of love and musical instruments ; 
whilst the pieces that belong to the Louis XV 
epoch are much more sober, and are only de- 
corated with mouldings. As for the construction 
lines and the shape of the panels, they remained 
the same from one style to the other. 

The Provencal pieces we reproduce here have 
been selected out of many of their contem- 
poraries as presenting the most recognisable of 
the Louis XVI motifs ; the antique vases on the 
armoire (Fig. 7), on the kneading trough (Fig. 13), 
and the whatnot shown in Fig. 9, the fluted 
columns and the rows of beading on the buffet- 
credence (Fig. 8), the lyre, the bow of ribbon, 
and the crossed palms of the little glass case 
(Fig. 11). ^ 

IJnder Louis XVI there was invented prac- 



THEVITRINE 55 

tically only one single new piece of furniture with 
panels, the vttrine. Heretofore knick-knacks, 
even the most precious, had been placed on the 
chimney-piece or on the shelves of a coiJt (a 
little corner whatnot) ; henceforth a special piece 
of furniture will keep safe from dust and knocks, 
while allowing them to be seen, rare porcelains, 
fragile biscuit ware, Chinese curiosities. The ^ 
vitrine is either a small cupboard (Fig. 14), or \ * 
an under cupboard ; sometimes it is placed on 
top of another piece of furniture, for example, a 
commode. Its ornamentation is sober, often re- 
duced to baguets and flutings in brass, for the 
container must not '' draw the eye " to the pre- 
judice of the contained. The turned and splayed 
out feet of the vitrine we reproduce are called 
toupies. The top is on three of its sides sur- 
rounded by a little gallery or balustrade of 
pierced brass, which we shall meet again very 
often, and which is a novelty of the Louis XVI 
epoch. The general appearance of this little glazed 
armoire has all the rectilinear effect typical of the 
end of the style. 

The other forms of panelled furniture remain 
what they were of old, except for certain super- 
ficial changes ; the corner cupboard (Fig. 15) has *^\^ — 
no longer its serpentine front, but one with very 
slight relief in a ressault or forepart of shallow 
projection, when it is not altogether straight and 
flat. The surfaces of the flattened angles are 
decorated with grooves imitated in marquetry; 
the keyhole is more than simple, although the 



56 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

piece itself is of suflBciently exquisite workman- 
ship. The vitrine of Fig. 14, the drop-front 
escritoire (Fig. 16), the bonheiir dujoiir with its 
roll-top front (Fig. 17), the commode (Fig. 18) 
have the same plain keyholes that are in har- 
mony with their angular austereness. 

The secretaire a abattant is one of the 
favourite pieces of this epoch. Here is the classic 
shape (Fig. 16) with its typical frieze of entrelacs 
a rosaces in gilded bronze, the chutes of tri- 
glyphs and gouttes, the keyholes (in the doors of 
the lower part) of the most favoured contem- 
porary model — a medallion surmounted by a bow 
and with two pendant garlands. The marquetry, 
at the same time refined and naive in crafts- 
manship, presents a curious design of a formal 
French garden, with pavilions and fountain of 
over fanciful proportions. 

That is the large drop-front escritoire, a serious, 
rather masculine piece ; but the cabinet-makers 
had invented a crowd of quite small kinds, for 
ladies, in which they had given play to all their 
ingenuity and their sense of slightly affected 
grace. These small models are often lightened 
at the top by detached miniature columns or 
corner caryatids of gilded brass ; the cupboard 
in the lower part is done away with, replaced by 
four spindle legs, joined either by a shelf with a 
piece hollowed out in front or by X-shaped 
cross bars with interlacing curves. The costliest 
of these small boudoir pieces have a Sevres plaque 
inlaid in the flap, and tiny bronzes, sometimes of 



LOUIS XVI COMMODE 57 

incredible finenesss ; nothing more delicately- 
feminine could be imagined. In sum, it is merely 
a return, in miniature, to the shape of the seven- 
teenth-century cabi7tet mounted on legs. 

Louis XVI commodes have a great diversity 
of shapes. To begin v^ith, we can distinguish 
two great families : commodes with three drawers 
or rows of drawers, and those that have only 
two. The latter are much the lighter and more 
elegant ; they are called commodes a pieds clevis. 
If they have retained the pieds de hiche of the 
Louis XV epoch, while more or less diminishing 
their curve, they can be extremely graceful ; 
with their happy combination of straight lines 
and curves, uniting the qualities of both styles, 
they are, indeed, one of the most elegant pieces 
of furniture that have ever been devised. The 
commode we have photographed (Fig. 18) is 
particularly delightful for its proportions, and 
thanks to the excellent bronzes of its legs and its 
rinceaii^ which have preserved something of the 
easy suppleness of the Louis XV Style. This 
other one (Fig. 19) also has a charm of its own, 
in spite of the rigidity of its terminal-shaped 
fluted legs. The projection, with double ressault, 
of its fagade is enough to make it interesting, 
and the pierced brass of its keyholes and handles 
are of very good design. 

Let us remark in this connection that, in the 
period we are discussing, the handles of drawers 
or mains y are nearly always mains pendanteSy 
drop handles ; they are very often rectangular 



58 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

and of absolute simplicity (Figs. 21, 25) ; but 
the most frequent form is that of the ring 
handle framing a circular /;/o///" which, on simple 
pieces, is a plaque of embossed brass (Figs. 22, 23). 
The keyholes are then similar plaques. Sometimes 
the plaque is oval, and the handle is merely a 
half ring (Fig. 26). As for mains fixes or fixed 
handles, these are garlands fastened to bows that 
hold up medallions (Fig, 20) or else held by the 
teeth of two lion masks. 

The Provencal commode with two drawers, in 
Fig. 24, is contemporary with the revolutionary 
armoire we have already mentioned, and it also 
carries in one of the entrelacs of the bottom 
traverse the crosier, the sword, and the spade 
with the Phrygian cap, the symbols of the three 
estates. The drapery motif is here interpreted 
naively, but in a very decorative fashion. 

Commodes with three lines of drawers of 
necessity owe a sufficiently heavy aspect to their 
construction, and nevertheless there are some of 
them which, raising themselves a little on pieds 
de biche (Fig. 23), arrive at a certain elegance. 
That in Fig. 20, which is a country made com- 
mode from the south-west, testifies to a fairly 
extensive research ; the craftsman, while remain- 
ing strictly faithful to the straight line, has 
endeavoured to lighten the shape by contracting 
the base, in imitation of the Louis XV commodes 
called 671 console. 

The construction of commodes is sometimes 
more complicated. The cabinet-maker, anxious 



AN ERROR IN DECORATION 59 

to avoid the aspect of a brutally square case, 
added to the right and the left quadrant-shaped 
shelves ; in that case^ to lighten his piece still 
further and, so to speak, give it air, he put a 
mirror back to the compartments formed in this 
v^ay at the sides. We have seen that these 
shelves may be replaced by little armoires v/ith 
curved doors ; or indeed the commode is 
frankly a half-moon, the drav^ers being them- 
selves convex also ; a very graceful shape, perfect 
to adorn the space betv^een tv^o windows in 
default of a console pier glass. If in the half- 
moon commode only the top drawers are re- 
tained, and the lower ones replaced by two 
shelves with brass galleries and mirror back, we 
have what the dealers called a commode 
Oliver te a P anglais e, 

A fault common to many fine commodes of 
the Louis XVI Style, is that the decoration of 
their facade is treated without taking into account 
the division of the drawers, this being disguised 
as much as possible by the exact fitting of the 
bronzes or the marquetry designs which continue 
from one drawer to the other. Cabinet-makers 
who were so pre-occupied with architecture and 
its laws never should have fallen into this error 
of logic, for the first duty of a fagade, in good 
architecture, is to show distinctly the divisions 
within. It is true that before their eyes they had 
illustrious examples of falsehoods like that of their 
furniture pieces ; the fagades of the two palaces 
of the Garde-Meubles, built by Gabriel, at the 



6o LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

entrance to the Rue Royale. The little com- 
mode in Fig. 1 8 has, to some extent, this fault, 
but lessened by the presence of two very obvious 
and visible keyholes, v^hich frankly declare the 
existence of the tv^ro drav^ers ; it is true that the 
lov^er keyhole is at fault in partly hiding the 
principal motif oi the marquetry. 

The developments of the commode devised 
under Louis XV became more and more 
elaborate ; chiffonnieres vdth five or six drawers 
one upon another, fluted pillars at the corners, 
toupie feet, marble tops with open-work galleries ; 
very handsome pieces, and so practical ! (Fig. 25) 
and secretaires- commodes, then known as 
commodes a dessus brise (Fig. 26), whose 
shape, something too geometrical, does not 
escape clumsiness, unless it is refined by pieds 
de biche* 

Louis XVI tables have vertical legs and 
straight frames,* without festoons ; that is what 
distinguishes them from Louis XV tables at the 
first glance. Nevertheless, even more than for 
commodes, the pied de biche of less generous 
curve was retained sufficiently long for small 
work tables, breakfast tables, and gueridons. 

These vertical legs are of different kinds.^ 
Some of them are square in section, tapering off ^' 
towards the foot (Fig. 28) ; these are called 
tieds en gaine, terminal-shaped (from the name 

^ What we say here of table legs applies also to the leg» of 
chairs. 



CHARACTERISTIC LEGS 6i 

of the bust-carrying pedestals which are of the 
same shape) ; they often end in projecting dice- 
shaped feet ;-there are round legs, turned, slightly 
conic, with a gorge moulding at the top, and 
another projecting moulding at the foot ; they 
are fluted vertically, with or without rudentiires^ 
sometimes in a spiral. That is the classic type. 
Above the moulding at the top, a part square of 
section, stouter, decorated with fluting or a 
rectangular rosace (Figs. 27, 28, 29, etc.), is 
joined with tenon and mortise to the cross pieces 
of the frame. Far from being disguised, this 
necessary reinforcement is, in well-planned 
tables, accentuated by the decoration. Round 
fluted legs are often called pieds en carquoiSy 
quiver legs, even when there is no representation 
of arrow feathers at the top. Towards the end 
of the Louis XVI period many legs are no longer 
fluted, but furnished below with a brass shoe 
with mouldings, above with a ring-capital in plain 
brass or engine-turned; the ^' tete du pied^^^ 
as cabinet-makers call it by a bold metaphor, is 
then decorated with a small plaque of brass, either 
striated or engine-turned. Other more elaborate 
legs imitate a bundle of arrows or pikes, fastened 
by ribbons intercrossed ; the feathers and the 
heads then serve as motifs for the ornamented 
parts at the top and the bottom. The use of 
castors is becoming general. 

Louis XV tables dispensed as much as possible 
with cross pieces between the legs, for they 
seldom harmonised with the continuous line of 



62 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

xhQ pieds de hiche\ they re-appear under Louis 
XVI ; they are even frequently more complicated 
and elaborate than is needed for solidity and 
strength, and their complex lines play an import- 
ant part in the decoration. Their join with each 
leg is always very openly made with a stout 
square piece. 

The frame of the table is decorated with 
fluting (Fig. 28), with entrelacs (Fig. 29), with 
framing lines of marquetry (Fig. 27). The table 
top is no longer wavy in outline, but round, 
oval, sometimes haricot-shaped (or kidney-shaped), 
rectangular, square ; in the last two cases it may 
have at each corner a projection, round or square, 
according to the kind of leg that is below it. 

Extending dining tables, invented quite at the 
end of the preceding epoch, under the name of 
tables a Panglaisey are still fairly uncommon ; 
they are round or oval, with leaves. 

Consoles have a great diversity of aspect, 
being meant to harmonise with widely different 
kinds of decoration for apartments. The most 
simple type, but not the least elegant, is a half- 
moon, with two vertical feet and a stretcher in the 
shape of a horizontal concave arch, adorned in the 
middle with a motif which Is most frequently 
an "antique" urn. The console of Fig. 32 is 
an excellent model, excellent in its perfect 
simplicity. Most commonly these handsome 
pieces are enriched with garlands of flowers, 
bouquets, bows of ribbons (Fig. 31). Other con- 
soles, richer still, and more architectural in style, 



CARD TABLES 63 

like the elegant model made of gilt wood, shown 
in Fig. 33, remarkable for the large design of its 
decoration, have legs that come very near to 
the consoles of architecture properly so called. 
Another type is that of the console with four legs, 
joined by stretchers or a shelf between them, half- 
moon or rectangular in shape ; when it is of this last 
shape it is in reality nothing more than a slightly 
tall table made to be seen only on three sides. 

Card tables (Fig. 27) had nearly all been 
invented under Louis XV ; we will not describe 
here all their different shapes. But there is one 
very well known one that properly belongs to 
the epoch now under review : the table-bouillotte, 
a shape that became highly popular, and of 
which authentic examples can still be found 
easily enough. The game of bouillotte was a 
kind of brelan, played very quickly ; but the 
bouillotte table, an exceedingly practical one, can 
be used for many other things besides cards. It 
is round, has a marble top with brass gallery; 
its four legs are " quiver "-shaped : its frame 
contains two little drawers and two pull-out 
shelves (Fig. 30). 

Now comes the large family of quite small 
fancy tables such as no woman worthy of the 
name could possibly do without having around 
her ; and here is the triumph of this delicate 
Louis XVI^Style. . Here again, nearly everything 
had been said and there was hardly any novelty 
to be introduced. The toilet table changes 
nothing but the line of its legs ; alongside it 



64 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

appears the athemenne, an antique tripod, made 
ot metal, supporting a vase of malachite or 
crystal; the Pompeiian Style is indispensable, 
and hence we have sphinxes, cloven hoofs, swans, 
rams' heads, etc. The chiffonmere (Figs. 36 and 
37) which offers every intermediate shape 
between a simple table and a small commode, 
is nearly always provided with a brass gallery, 
useful to keep bobbins and needle-cases from 
rolling on to the floor. Here is a new word for 
the cabinet-makers' vocabulary : the tricoteuse. 
Now it is a chiffonniere whose top is surrounded 
with a pretty high wall of gilt brass trellis to keep 
the balls of wool within bounds ; now a work 
table, exactly like those of to-day, with a top that 
lifts up, lined with a mirror, and compartments 
inside ; in a word, a toilette not greatly modified. 
Didsociety ladies knit then? Certainly, and the 
ci'devant marquises could have given lessons to 
those sinister harridans, the knitting women that 
used to sit by at their trial before the revolution- 
ary tribunals. Let us not forget that benevolence 
and good works was the rule, the proper form, 
and the mania for knitting garments for the poor 
was already raging. The breakfast table or 
chocolate table is a gueridon wi;h two tiers ; the 
lower table is carried by four legs, the top by one 
pillar in the centre ; it is exceedingly ugly, a 
design that went wrong. Many of these tables — 
for the evil itch of writing is universal, — are 
provided with a pull-out shelf and a little drawer 
on the right hand containing a writing desk; 



WRITING TABLES 65 

or indeed, the top drawer of a chiffonniere has a 
sliding top inlaid with morocco leather, in 
place of the shelf. For these light tables new 
shapes of legs have been invented, lyre-shaped 
or crossed like an X; as for the top it is fre- 
quently oval. 

Here is a completely new kind of table : the 
table a Jieiirs^ which will not be called a 
jardiniere till later. People have read Rousseau, 
everyone admires nature, botanises perhaps ; in 
any case loves to go, wearing a big hat in the 
fashion of Madame Vigee Lebrun, and gather 
blossoms at the hour when Aurora has scattered 
over the meads all the pearls from off her tresses ; 
and then it is discovered that the porcelain 
fleurs de Vtncemtes, with their foliage of 
painted copper, are perhaps no more beautiful 
than the natural ones ; in short, one adores 
flowers, and that is when one takes it into one's 
head to adorn one's dwelling continually with 
cut flowers and living flowers. The jardiniere 
from the start found the shape it still has to-day ; 
it was often decorated with Sevres plaques. 

There remain the writing tables, their deriva- 
tives and their hybrids. The great flat bureau of 
the time of Louis XV, wdth or without the bout 
de bureau or pigeon-holes for papers, is still 
made, though much less frequent ; the roll top 
bureau, so extremely useful and practical, has 
dethroned it. A new shape, which will later 
become the heavy bureau-ministre, makes its 
appearance, a flat bureau provided to left and 



66 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

right of the space for the writer's knees with 
drawers one above the other ; if they come down 
to the ground it is altogether our hiireau- 
ministre, and it is not a thing of beauty. If the 
sides do not come so low, they are carried on 
eight legs ; and there we are, back again to the 
bureau of the time of Louis XIV. It goes as far 
as combining the round top with the drawers 
coming down to the ground ; and this is nothing 
more or less than our " American bureau " ; so 
true it is that there is nothing new under the 
sun. 

The small ladies' bureaux are very varied. 
Some are flat, some round-topped; the most 
popular is the honheur dujour^ which was indeed 
in existence at the end of the Louis XV epoch, 
but had not as yet any special name. The 
bonheur dujour is a writing table that carries on 
top, set back, a small armoire. This is usually 
glazed, or fitted with mirrors, or indeed with 
imitation backs of books ; above is the inevitable 
white marble with its brass gallery. For writing 
there is a pull-out shelf, or a hinged shelf that 
opens forward, or a drawer with a top in the 
shape of a writing board. And there are 
bonheur s dujour with roll top (Fig. 17) ; others 
are h pente, as it is called to-day, that is to say 
with a flap that occupies a sloping position when 
the bureau is closed. 

Straining for novelties, the cabinet-makers 
invent the most ingenious but most bizarre 
combinations. We see advertised, for instance, a 



STRANGE COMBINATIONS 67 

** roll top toilette, that can be used by a lady as 
an escritoire, with two small strong-boxes and a 
white marble top," or what is still better, a 
^^ table de nuit that can be used as a writing 
table, and as a stove in winter ! " 



CHAPTER III: CHAIRS AND 
VARIOUS PIECES : A LOUIS 
XVI INTERIOR 

Perfection, from the point of view of comfort, 
had been reached by the chairs of Louis XV's 
time ; those of the following period, less roomy 
and more angular, are rather inferior in this 
regard. On the other hand, they are more varied 
in shape and ornament. As vnth all the other 
kinds of furniture, the essential difference is that 
the Louis XV chairs have not one single line that 
can be called straight, while the Louis XVI chairs 
always have at least their legs rectilinear. The 
frame of the chair is straight behind, most fre- 
quently curved at the sides and front (Figs. 38, 
39, etc.). Certain types have their seat horse- 
shoe shaped (Fig. 56); others circular (Fig. 43); 
but there are some also in which it is trapeze- 
shaped, without a single curve (Figs. 45, 46). 
Another important difference is that, all the parts, 
all the *4imbs " of, for example, an arm-chair, are 
at the same time united and separated by well 
marked joints (always the architectural influ- 
ence), while a Louis XV arm-chair is, like a living 
creature, all made up of continuous curves. 

The legs, Hke the legs of tables, are terminal- 
shaped (though not often), or turned and 
** quiver "-shaped and fluted either vertically 
(Figs. 38, 39, etc.) or spirally (Fig. 40). The 

68 



CHAIRS AND SKIRTS 69 

top part of the leg is a cube decorated on two 
faces with a square rosace of acanthus leaf 
(Fig. 40), later by a marguerite (Fig. 47), or a 
design of circular mouldings (Fig. 43). Towards 
the end of the period appear back legs square of 
section, curved outwards, and with their line 
directly continued by the uprights of the back; 
this is a first discreet imitation of the Greek 
shapes (Fig. 55).^ 

The frame is decorated with simple mouldings 
(Fig. 41), or carved with one of those running 
ornaments we have described, rang de perles 
(Fig. 40), rang de feuilles (Fig. 52), rang de 
piastres (Fig. 51) ; or it is decorated with a bow 
of ribbon or a rosace in the middle of the front 
(Figs. 43, 44, 47). 

The arms, or accotoirs, always provided with 
manchettes* are attached to the back by a more 
or less graceful curve, which may even begin at 
the very top of the uprights of the back 
(Fig. 38) ; this arrangement is sufficiently un- 
graceful. They end in front in a volute of no 
great importance, under which the console de 
Paccotoir^ the vertical support of the arm, joins 
it. Certain very ornate armchairs (Fig. 38) have 
lions' heads at this point, which is a jump of 
fifty years backwards. During the Regency 
women wore skirts with panniers, which brought 
about the invention of arm-chairs with set back 

* The back of this same chair (Fig. 55) already shows the 
shovel shape— c// /^//c— -which will be a characteristic of the 
Directoire period. 



70 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

consoles, consoles reculees. During the reign of 
Louis XVI the panniers did not diminish, but 
very much the contrary ; however, consoles 
reculees are now only made very rarely (Fig. 43). 
It is, nevertheless, essential that panniers may be 
able to spread themselves comfortably, and for 
that purpose, from the beginning of the reign of 
Louis XV, consoles have been invented that 
do indeed continue the top of the leg but 
immediately turn both outward and back to leave 
the front of the arm-chair clear. This arrange- 
ment still exists under Louis XVI (Fig. 47), but 
only for very luxurious and costly chairs, as 
the cutting out of these consoles with their 
double curve is difficult and requires a great deal 
of wood. The ordinary console (Figs. 38, etc.) is 
cut in the shape of an S, but only curved in one 
plane ; it is often decorated at the base with an 
acanthus leaf (Figs. 38, 40, etc.). A little later 
the pannier fashion passes, and at once the 
upright consoles, consoles montantes of earlier 
times, reappear under the shape of balusters 
(Fig. 46). It is not easy for this kind of consoles 
(Taccotoirs to be elegant ; the meeting of the 
base of the baluster with the top of the leg is 
often very clumsy. 

The back may have the most varied shapes. 
If it is slightly hollowed out, whatever its shape 
the arm-chair is said to be en cabriolet. The 
medallion back (which was already in ex- 
istence at the end of the Louis XV epoch) is 
oval; it is one of the most widespread shapes 



BERGERES 71 

(Figs. 41, 43, 44). It is often decorated at the 
top with a bow of ribbon (Figs. 43, 44), recall- 
ing the bow by means of which a medallion or 
an oval frame for an engraving, a picture or a 
mirror was hung. A delicate point for the 
elegance of the line as Avell as for strength is 
the connection between the oval and the legs at 
the back of the chair. The joining pieces are 
curved outward, or more rarely inward ; as 
always the concave curve is more agreeable to 
the eye than the convex curve. There are 
fiddle-shaped backs, as in the time of Louis XV 
(Fig. 42) ; there are some that are frankly square 
(Figs. 45, 46), or square with chamfered angles 
(Fig. 40), others have the uprights vertical or 
slightly diverging and the top cross piece arched ; 
or they are rectangular, with the upper angles of 
the rectangle indented (Figs. 38, 39) ; they are 
then called dossiers en chapeau, *' hat " backs, 
particularly when the top is slightly arched, with 
a gadroon moulding in relief on the indented 
angles. In these last backs the uprights, which 
are sometimes slender columns detached from 
the actual framework of the back, terminate in 
Qdiiytdi motifs; pine cones, berries, plumes of 
feathers exactly like those on beds and catafalques 
(Fig. 39) or inverted stems of acanthus leaves 
(Fig. 48). 

Bergeres continue to be very popular ; with - 
their down mattress-cushions, their ample, deep 
shape, their solid sides {Jones pleines), they are 
always the cosiest, softest and most comfortable of 



72 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

seats. Most bergeres are very little diiferent 
from arm-chairs (Figs. 50, 5 1) ; others are gondola- 
shaped, that is to say, with rounded back and 
showing a continuous line from the tip of one 
arm to that of the other ; still others are 
confessional-shaped or " eared " (Fig. 59). 

All the seats of which we have just been 
speaking have upholstered backs ; but many 
costly chairs were made, even gilded chairs, with 
backs all of wood and open- worked (Figs. 50 to 61). 
The most popular motif for these open designs 
was the lyre (Figs. 54, 59 to 61), and next the 
corbeil de vannerie^ more or less simplified and 
given a conventional style (Fig. 56), the terminal 
shape with mouldings and carved (Fig. 53), etc. 
There were even seen, at the time of the earliest 
balloon ascents, backs en montgolfiere. These 
chairs were fairly often covered in leather for 
dining rooms and offices, or else caned and made 
of mahogany.^ 

Cane-seated chairs meant to have carreauxy 
square cushions filled with hair or down, and 
covered with stuff or morocco leather, are not 
of any shape peculiar to themselves, except 
"toilet arm-chairs," whose low back, done with 
cane like the seat, is round and gondola-shaped ; 
their seat is circular. 

A kind of chair that gains greatly under 
Louis XVI in refinement and elegance is the 
modest arm-chairs and ordinary chairs of straw,* 

* Mahogany chairs are an innovation introduced in this period. 

• They were also styled a la cafuciue. 



STRAW CHAIRS 73 

made by turners and not by joiners ; but we 
have seen that the two trade guilds were then 
amalgamating into one. The most ordinary of 
these chairs (Figs. 61, 63), simply turned with 
no carving whatever, may, thanks to their happy 
proportions and pure lines, have a real artistic 
value; they are distinguished from their Louis 
XV predecessors only by the *'hat" design of 
the cross pieces of the back. The seat is 
equipped with a flat square cushion fastened to 
the four corners with tapes, and the back with 
a loose cover over the traverses, or a square 
cushion fastened with tapes in the same way. 

The somewhat more refined models, which in- 
clude carving, or at least a certain amount of 
fluting (Figs. 59, 60, etc.), are sometimes exquisite 
in their simplicity of invention and the rustic 
flavour of the style of the carving. Of course, 
those that have decorated backs must not be 
equipped with more than a cushion for the seat. 
The " sheaf " back is well known, with its 
graceful bundle of rods spreading out in fan 
shape (Fig. 64) ; the arcaded back {a arcatures) 
has spindle-shaped and fluted slender shafts ; the 
upper traverse is "hat "-shaped or with pediment, 
and carved by means of the hollow gouge ; the 
lyre back is popular (Figs. 59 to 61) ; the arrises 
are often beaded, which gives the line more life. 
The horse-shoe back of Fig 61 is unusually 
elegant ; and in any case it is a type that is 
not often met with. 

The edge of a straw seat, and the under sur- 



74 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

face, which is always rough, have nothing elegant 
about them ; they are disguised in the front by 
a fillet of thin wood, which is nevertheless 
missing in the simplest shapes (Fig. 63), or 
actually rather eccentrically placed where it has 
no reason to be,, some three inches underneath 
the seat, in the gMse of a strengthening cross-bar 
for the front legs. This cross piece is fluted and 
sometimes (Fig. 62) carved. Straw chairs are 
made of oak, of walnut, and most frequently of 
cherry wood; this modest, home-grown wood 
sometimes has acquired a polish, a warm reddish 
patina that the finest mahogany might well envy. 

The lyre-backed chair of Fig. 59 is a very 
modest one, very ordinary. And yet who knows 
what price this relic would reach at a sale ? For 
it is neither more nor less than the very chair on 
which Marie Antoinette used to sit in her cell at 
the Conciergerie. 

Canapes are naturally of similar shapes to 
arm-chairs, their backs are square, " hat"-shaped, 
medallion-shaped ; their arm consoles are curved 
backwards, or vertical in the shape of balusters,^ 
the side pieces are full or open. Those with full 
side pieces are ottomans, rectangular or trapeze- 
shaped. There are ottomans with medallion 
backs and curved side pieces ; others, again, have 
preserved the graceful lines of the round " basket "- 
shaped ottomans of the Louis XV period. There 

* Fig. I.— The balusters of this very elegant cauap6 end in 
crosiers, which indicates the extreme end of the style. We shall 
find them again in beds, benches, etc., belonging to the succeed- 
ing period ; they go with rolled backs or side pieces. 



THE LIT D'ANGE 75 

IS one quite novel shape ; the very large canapes^ 
called confidents^ which at both ends are flanked 
with two supplementary quadrant-shaped pieces 
outside the arms. 

There is nothing particular to be said of the 
chaises longues, or duchesses^ of this period ; they 
continue to be made in one piece (Fig. 70), or 
brisees, either in two pieces of equal length 
(Fig. 71), each of which is by itself a little chaise 
longue, or in two unequal pieces, a bergere and 
a long bench seat (Fig. 72) ; or, again, in three 
pieces ; two similar bergeres and a square stool 
with two hollowed sides, into which the bergeres 
fit closely. 

Louis XVI beds are not so scarce as those 
belonging to the earlier period, because little by 
little the habit of completely covering up the 
wood with stuff was dying out ; the wood, being 
visible, was decorated, and has been preserved. 
Every shape of bed continues to be in use : ^ la 
Polonaise^ h V Impiriale^ h ritalienne^ and 
h la Turque ; the upholsterers rack their brains 
to create new shapes : d, la Paniirge, h la Mtli- 
taire, even to beds ^ la tomhtau retrousse <X la 
Chinoise, There is also a revival of types that 
were out of fashion under Louis XV, like the 
four-poster bed, a charming specimen of which 
is reproduced as a frontispiece to this volume, 
hung with satin striped in yellow and green, with 
red lines, highly characteristic. But the type 
most frequently met with was the " angel " bed, 
the lit d'ange, meant to be seen end-wise, and 



76 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

with two equal or nearly equal dossiers at head 
and foot (Figs. 75 and j6). These dossiers affect 
the same shape as those of arm-chairs, they are 
square, arched with "basket handle" design 
(Fig. 76), " hat "-shaped (Fig. 75), etc. 

The legs are either en gaine — terminal-shaped 
or quiver-shaped and fluted, the uprights of the 
dossiers are square fluted pilasters, or again they 
are detached pillars or balusters ; and the tops 
of the uprights have a fir cone (Fig. 76), a 
pomegranate or some other turned motifs and 
very often a plume of feathers. A bed is styled 
h la Polonaise when four iron rods spring from 
the top of the uprights, and at a certain height 
curve up to join one another in holding up a 
crown, from which the curtains are hung ; one 
wide piece of stuff forming the head curtain, and 
two narrow widths falling along the iron rods, 
towards the corners of the foot, and gathered 
back with bows. This is an extremely graceful 
arrangement. 

Screens are as a rule simple and rectangular, 
the uprights sometimes flanked by detached 
pillars (Fig. 78) or slender balusters ; the top 
may have any of the variety of shapes seen in the 
dossiers of arm-chairs or beds. That shown in 
Fig. 78 has the graceful *'S-shaped" pediment 
of the Louis XV armoires ; it is a memory of the 
preceding style. They have wooden supports, 
each made of two consoles with acanthus de- 
signs ; the leaf of the screen is filled with tapestry, 
figured velvet, damask, or embossed silk, less fre- 



MIRRORS 77 

quently with those Chinese papers with figures, 
Imown as papier s des Indes^ that were a craze 
under Louis XV, 

The shape of clocks is very little changed at 
the end of the reign of Louis XV ; they simply 
adopt the new style of ornamentation " after the 
Greek." As horology, towards the middle of the 
eighteenth century, made very great progress — 
the most renowned scientists did not disdain to 
busy themselves with it — many fine clocks made 
after 1760, and so in the Louis XVI Style, have 
very correct works which even to-day, when 
thoroughly repaired, can give excellent service. 

An article belonging to this period still to be 
found in considerable numbers, and one that the 
amateur of pretty old pieces will readily enough 
have the pleasure of unearthing, and which is 
often an exquisite thing, is the moyenne or small 
mirror in a frame of gilt wood. There are three 
principal types : first, the simple rectangular 
frame made of a moulding, either quite plain or 
with a line of beading, a ribbon rolled round a 
baguet, etc., and surmounted by a carved pedi- 
ment called the chapiteau. This chapiteau 
displays an immense variety. Now it is a wreath 
of laurels accompanied by garlands, now a basket 
of flowers, an antique vase adorned with garlands, 
now a trophy of emblems ; the quiver, the torch, 
and the bow of Love, with the mevitable billing 
doves; the emblems of Agriculture, flail and 
fork and rake and sheaf of grain, etc. (Fig. 82) ; 
emblems of the pastoral life, pipes, straw hat 



78 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

and crook ; of the chase, gun, powder flask, 
game bag, etc. ; the tambourine and Provencal 
flageolet (Fig. 8i), violin, flute, hautbois. . . . 
All this almost always intertwined with flexible 
laurel boughs completing and lightening the 
effect, as a leaf of asparagus fern or a spray of 
gypsophila does in a well thought out bouquet. 
Certam of these pediments for mirrors are real 
little masterpieces of composition. Another type 
is more architectural (Fig. 83). The lower part 
of the frame is enlarged by two square additions 
which are certainly a reminiscence, a distortion of 
those reversed consoles which architects delight 
to put at the bottom of mansarde windows ; 
below these are two little consoles which seem 
to support the whole thing, and in fact allow 
the glass to be stood on top of a commode or 
chiffonier. The pediment has two chutes of 
garlands which come pretty well down along 
the frame and balance with the projections of 
the base. The third type, finally, more un- 
common than the others, is the oval glass, 
medallion shaped, surmounted by a bow of ribbon, 
a model that has become just a trifle tiresome, 
by dint of its modern imitations. 

The articles of Louis XVI furniture which 
we have now rapidly dealt with are those with 
which it is easiest to furnish a modern room. 
The Louis XVI Style has in fact been the 
fashion for some years in architecture as well as in 
furniture and ohjets d^art, and most of the 



A LOUIS XVI INTERIOR 79 

houses that let flats are (or at any rate claim 
to be) built and decorated in this style ; the 
chimney pieces of present-day Paris and the big 
towns are invariably Louis XVI, and their lifts as 
well, their composition, patisseries or ornaments 
in the ceilings like their electric switches. . . . 
At any rate, a mysterious and all-powerful decree 
has laid it down that the panelling and the 
doors of the rooms we live in must be uniformly 
white or very light in colour ; now it was under 
Louis XVI that light colours were most in favour 
with architects. 

How shall we manage to procure furniture of 
this style for a drawing-room, a dining-room, a 
bedroom ? On this subject we might profitably 
consult a certain Caillot, a writer something less 
than mediocre, but a man of much curiosity and 
with well-opened eyes, who had seen the end of 
the reign of Louis XVI, the Revolution, the 
Empire, and the Restoration, when he put 
together his Memoires pour servir a Phistoire 
des moeurs et usages des FranQais, First of 
all, what are the drawing-room walls to be covered 
with ? We note to begin with that a simple 
painted paper will not be a solecism, even costly 
rooms were papered round about 1780. Speaking 
of a wealthy bourgeois interior of the pre- 
Revolutionary days, Caillot says : *' Though 
tapestries held their place in the antechamber, 
they had given way in the drawing-room to a 
pretty painted paper of Arthur's make." The 
celebrated firm of Reveillon, whose pillage and 



8o LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

burning were the prelude to the Revolution, 
supplied the whole of Europe with papers, which 
were largely made by hand and were veritable 
works of art. But although now-a-days excellent 
imitations of the old papers are made, among the 
papers of the trade a very drastic choice will have 
to be made, and the safest plan will perhaps be to 
be satisfied with plain stripes ; in this way one can 
be at least sure of not making mistakes in taste. 

If we can hang the walls with some material, 
it is obvious that it will only be a very far o£E 
reminder of the marvellous products of the 
Lyons looms under Louis XVI, the designs for 
which were made by that great artist PhiHppe de 
Lassalle. And here also we shall do well to keep 
to stripes, which have at any rate the advantage 
of giving an illusion of a little added height to 
the cramped squat boxes in which we are lodged. 

As for colour, Caillot observes that the aris- 
tocracy in their mansions remained faithful to the 
classic " hangings of crimson damask, divided and 
upheld vertically and horizontally by gilt fillets," 
or else golden yellow damask ; but that in the 
houses of financiers and bourgeois */ the hangings 
and curtains of yellow or crimson damask had 
been taken down and sky blue stretched upon the 
walls or partitions they had deserted." Many 
other colours besides this *' sky blue " were used : 
bright colours and sober colours, pearl greys, 
water greens, pinks glazed with white, but also, 
and very often, hues much less dull and diluted 
than we give them credit for to-day. 



THE DRAWING ROOM 8i 

When chairs were not covered with tapestries 
from the looms of Beauvais and Aubusson or 
needlework, they were covered as far as possible 
with the same material as the walls ; and when 
one referred to the furniture of a room it meant 
the whole ensemble of the same material, hang- 
ings, curtains, and chairs. It goes without 
saying that we will very seldom be able to imitate 
this harmony. If we have got hold of chairs 
without any covering, we shall be able to have 
them done either with a good copy of an old 
silk, or with a figured, striped or corded velvet. 

What was the furniture to be found in a 
drawing-room ? Let us once more enquire of 
Caillot : " On the mantelpiece, the eyes could 
not tell on what object to fix their admiration ; 
in the centre a clock of the costliest and most 
beautiful workmanship, and on either side many- 
branching candelabra, perfume burners ringed 
round with gold, and vases of Chinese, Japanese, 
and Dresden porcelain. . . . On each side of the 
mirror a candelabrum ^ with three or four branches. 
In the middle of the ceiling hung a lustre ^ of 
Bohemian glass, all its corners fastened with pins 
of brass, gilt or even vermilion. Underneath this 
handsome lustre stood on three feet a table of 
porphyry or some priceless marble, upon which 
were set porcelain vases of the most famous 
makes of the Far East and Europe, and often in 

' Caillot's vocabulary is not very exact:, he means a hrai dc 
lumiere ; we should call it a sconce. * 
■ Not a real " lustre," but a lanUrne, 



82 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

the summer time baskets full of flowers. Here and 
there in the corners of the salon might be seen a 
few gaming tables." Let us add at least one 
console, the two traditional bergeres by the fire- 
place (these were sometimes replaced by that 
hideous form of seat, the marquise, too wide for 
one person and too small for two), and the other 
seats ; canapes, arm-chairs, chairs, and those 
curving X-shaped stools (Fig. 49) that imitated 
the curule chair of the Romans. 

There you have practically all the furniture 
proper to a large drawing-room or salon, but we 
must remember that our drawing-rooms of 
to-day correspond much more nearly to the 
salons de compagnie and other less formal and 
ceremonious rooms of the eighteenth century. 
In these there reigned already, and much more 
than under Louis XV, that medley for which 
our modern interiors have so often been blamed, 
There was, to begin with, " an infinity of 
little pieces, lightly wrought " ; commodes, 
escritoires, bonheurs du jour^ small tables of 
every kind, spinets, vitrines. . . . 

And there was no shrinking from mixing 
styles. " In a certain number of houses the 
owners, remaining faithful to old ways religously 
preserved the furniture that had served their 
forbears ; there were also many others whose 
furniture and decorations had been renewed, in 
accordance with the new tastes and fashions, or 
whose old furniture was mixed with more modern 
articles. ... In was mainly among young 



MIXING STYLES 83 

married folk that this amalgam of old and new 
had come about. They neither cared to turn 
their backs on the ways of their fathers, nor to 
set themselves in opposition to the ways that held 
sway among their own contemporaries." Besides, 
it is sufficient to run through a portfolio of en- 
gravings of the period to see how very little, 
when artists wished to represent a very elegant 
interior of their own day, they hesitated to 
amalgamate the two styles of their century ; and 
we have tried to show that the differences 
between the two were not fundamental. But it 
calls for both tact and taste to choose from 
among Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture the 
pieces that have enough affinities to come 
together without clashing. If one has at his 
disposal a fairly spacious room, it would be 
amusing to put together a Louis XV corner in 
a Louis XVI salon. 

Many pieces belonging to the Revolutionary* 
period are still quite sufficiently of their century 
to be very well able to find a place in a Louis 
XVI environment. They will have the air of 
poor relations if you like, but at any rate of 
relations. If seats are concerned, striped 
materials, which are equally suitable for the two 
periods, will be more than ever indicated in 
order to keep up the harmonious impression. 

But it would be much more difficult to group 

* For example, the escritoire (Fig. 85), the consoles (Figs. 87 
and 88), the arm-chair (Fig. 95), the bergere (Fig. 94), the t)ed 
(Fig. 99). 



84 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

Louis XVI furniture with that of another 
century and still achieve any harmonious effect. 
We have, it is true, discovered towards the end 
of the eighteenth century a return to the shapes, 
the ornaments, and even the technique of the 
time of Louis XIV, but these characteristics are 
to be found only in a few commodes, consoles 
and pieces between these two and of the highest 
luxury and costliness ; and in this book we do 
not claim to be writing for new Wallaces or 
Camondos ! — And what of the Empire Style ? — 
Without doubt the Empire Style, from one 
point of view, is merely the logical successor to 
that of Louis XVI, the strict application of the 
principles by which the latter purported to be 
governed. But — apart from the fact that it is 
the expression of a quite new society — this very 
rigorousness isolates it, as a fanatic is isolated in 
a society built upon mutual concessions and 
compromise. A purely Empire interior is ac- 
ceptable, but an Ernpire piece among Louis XVI 
furniture is a sententious and dowdy pedant in 
the midst of rather frivolous and smart society, 
it is jridiculous. 

And then there is the very important question 
of colour. The Louis XIV gamut, if one may 
use the phrase, and the Empire gamut are by 
far too different from that of the Louis XVI 
Style, even though as a last resort for harmonis- 
ing or general effect we have the old crimson 
damask, which has in the past resisted so 
jnany changes of fashion thjit under Louis- 



► 



KNICK-KNACKS 85 

Philippe it was still battling against that hideous 
triumphant rep. 

Let us come back to our salon. It now has 
its hangings, its furniture, its chimney set — a 
clock and two candelabra, between the candelabra 
and the clock stand two perfume burners made 
of marble and mounted in gilt bronze ; that is 
the traditional sacred set which, for the rest, we 
are allowed to find very banal and to replace by 
something else. Caillot has told us of porcelain 
vases from the Far East, or French or Dresden ; 
a bust in marble or terra cotta, a group of 
biscuit ware, if the chimney-piece is a small one, 
may take the place of the clock. As for the floor, 
if it is a handsome one the best thing is to leave 
it bare; if you wish to cover it, failing an 
authentic French carpet — extremely costly, 
probably worn down to the backing, and most 
certainly full of darnings — you will be quite safe 
from anachronism by adopting an Eastern carpet 
of well chosen colouring; it goes with every- 
thing. On the walls there w"ll be a barometer 
in gilt wood, a wall clock, engravings. . . . 

Finally let there be, everywhere, in vitrines, 
on the console, on the tables, as many toys and 
trinkets as you please ; there never was a time 
that loved them so dearly. They may be of 
three categories, one as much Louis XVI as 
another : European articles of the eighteenth 
century, biscuit ware, figures or animals in 
Dresden, boxes and cases of every sort and every 
material^ cups, vases, cups and saucers even if 



86 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

they are of fine porcelain ; a pretty tooled leather 
binding on the corner of a bonheur du jour has 
an agreeable effect. . . . Then come Chinese, 
Japanese, Indian things ; the kindly eclecticism 
of the time admitted them readily, although they 
were less of a mania than they were about 1740. 
Lastly, antiques, either genuine or exact replicas 
of the originals. Nothing could be better in 
place in a Louis XVI interior than an Athenian 
lecythos, 2l little bronze excavated at Pompeii, a 
Roman lamp, a little statue of Myrrhina in 
terra cotta. 

Now for the dining-room. To furnish this in 
a modern house will present much the same 
difficulty, whether the style in question is 
Louis XVI or Louis XV, for this particular 
room was still very scantily supplied with furni- 
ture. Besides the table and the chairs there was 
hardly to be found one or two consoles or tables- 
desserteSy very seldom a buffet, its place was 
filled by cupboards, or else indeed the china and 
silver, which no one thought it necessary to 
display for everyone to see, were kept in the 
kitchen. If you must needs have the traditional 
buffet, which is, of course, often essential for 
want of other conveniences, you will have to fall 
back upon provincial pieces, especially those from 
Normandy or from Aries, for it was almost 
entirely in these two districts that buffets were 
made of sufficient finish to fit them for an 
interior of any refinement. A Normandy buffet 
then in two parts, which you will select of the 



THE DINING ROOM 87 

smallest dimensions and finely carved ; or better 
still an Arlesian buffet- credence (Fig. 8), whose 
low shape will be better in proportion with the 
probably none too lofty ceiling, and whose 
carving will be as elaborate and as florid as you 
can wish. And why should one not bring in 
with it its inevitable companions, the kneading 
trough (Fig. 13), which will do for a service 
table, the various dressers for glass and pewter 
(Figs. 9 and 12), the little shelved vitrine — a 
miniature armoire — and the bread cupboard, the 
perfection of decorativeness. 

As for seats, our obliging Caillot gives us 
another priceless indication ; they will be " chairs 
of elegant simplicity. In several houses,*' — in 
this passage he is referring to the houses of the 
old Parisian nobility — "they were straw, in 
others caned or of horse-hair covered with hide.*' 
And so without any fear of perhaps giving our 
dining-room too countryfied an air we can have 
in it some simple but handsome straw-seated 
chairs with sheaf backs, or arcaded, or with plain 
cross pieces (Figs. 59 to 67), and if we want them 
to look more elaborate and be more comfortable, 
let them have square cushions stuffed with horse- 
hair, covered with silk, or velvet, or printed Hnen, 
and tied to the four corners of the seats. Or let 
us have some of those stout cane chairs with 
square or oval cane backs, or else let us have 
mahogany chairs with open-work wooden backs 
and leather covered seats (Figs. 57 and 58). 

In a bedroom we must have a bed, or two 



88 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

twin beds (they were known already), either 
angel beds or a la polonaise ; the curtains, if a 
regard for hygiene docs not forbid them, the bed- 
spread, the panels of the head and foot of the 
bed, will all be of the same material, gay coloured 
silk or Jouy linen. We know the extraordinary 
vogue under Louis XVI of the productions of 
this celebrated manufactory of printed linens that 
Oberkampf had set up at Jouy; those bright 
materials with their clear pure colour, their 
designs carried out in cama'ieu with such ease 
and sureness, and with old-world subjects of so 
attaching a charm, are indeed the most becoming 
attire which, even in the city, can possibly be 
employed to brighten and enliven a room. In 
any case these linens were not held unworthy of 
the royal apartments. Oberkampf and Reveillon 
were leagued together to produce, the one linens 
and the other papers in the same designs and the 
same colours ; everyone knows that to-day paper 
makers and makers of printed stuffs do the same, 
and that they reproduce the old models with 
absolute fidelity. The rest of the furniture will 
be made up of, say, a chaise-longue (if it is a 
duchesse brisee it will be the handier) and two 
or three arm-chairs or plain chairs covered in the 
same printed linen ; a commode surmounted by 
a little mirror with a narrow gilt frame, a 
chiffonier — a most practical and useful piece — if 
we can manage to unearth one ; a closed night 
table (Fig. 35), or indeed an open one (which 
will be really better here than in a drawing- 



THE BEDROOM 89 

room, where they are so often to be seen !), a 
toilette, which will most certainly not be used as 
a washing stand, but a dressing table proper ; the 
toilet arm-chair with its flat cushion in morocco 
leather, perhaps one of those pretty small 
Normandy armoires with a single door, whose 
narrow shape makes them easy to find house-room 
for, and which are called bonnetieres. Last of 
all, for the carpet we must have a modern one, 
and it will be a plain moquette of the same 
colour as the hangings. 

It would be a very interesting task to furnish a 
country house, especially an old one, in the 
eighteenth century style — when it comes to 
country furniture the styles of Louis XV and 
Louis XVI are very nearly alike — especially if we 
try to give it the most emphatic local character 
possible. Here we shall no doubt find the 
dimensions of the pieces give hardly any trouble, 
and we shall not be forced to exclude, on account 
of their excessive height and width, those goodly 
great armoires of the provinces that can hold a 
pantechnicon load. What does Caillot say? In 
the country chateaux '' instead of ordinary time- 
pieces clocks shut up in armoires ^ gave out the 
hours, and wardrobes of well carven walnut were 
the principal furniture to be seen in the dining- 
rooms and the bedrooms." Let us add that 
they look equally well in a great country drawing- 
room, in a hall or on a landing. In the dining- 
roojn we can replace or reinforce the wardrobe 
* Ca$^d cloc]cs. 



90 LOUIS XVI FURNITURE 

in question by one of those huge buffets in two 
parts fitted with doors, or shelved and open 
\buffets-vais sellers)^ whose lofty height always 
astonishes the Parisian in the country.^ Natur- 
ally printed linen is indicated in every room for 
hangings, beds and chair covers; or else boucassin, 
that highly prepared fabric, glazed and rustling 
like paper, which was once made at Marseilles and 
which has to-day begun to be made once more, 
eminently hygienic and bright to look at. For 
seats we may be satisfied in all the rooms with 
straw arm-chairs and chairs; sofas like the one 
shown in Fig. 68 are unhappily scarce. Rustic 
faience and pottery and brass will be invaluable 
to finish the decoration of our country dwelling, 
and in many provinces the modern productions 
of local industries will " date " so little that they 
can be mixed with genuine old articles without 
clashing. 

* We write this face to face with a buffet from the Pyrenees 
which stands little less than ten feet high from feet to cornice. 



THIRD PART 
THE EMPIRE FURNITURE 



CHAPTER ONE : CHARACTER- 
ISTICS AND TECHNIQUE OF 
THE STYLE 

The Empire Style is the considered and de- 
liberate work of a revolutionary generation which 
fostered the cult of antiquity. Revolutionary, 
and revolutionary in the French fashion, it 
had a natural tendency to despise the past root 
and branch, and to turn with set prejudice in 
everything, cabinet-making as much as politics, 
to the exact opposite of what went before the 
fateful date of '89. This was going to an 
extreme ; having founded a new society they 
were struggling to procure an art that should 
befit this society, if not as it was, at least as it 
imagined itself and set up to be, and this was 
perfectly legitimate. But this generation, repub- 
lican at the outset, soon turned again towards 
the monarchy ; the Empire Style is revolutionary, 
but it is also monarchical ; it displays some of 
the most fundamental characteristics of the 
grandiose style of Louis XIV ; in short, let us 
borrow an epithet from the immortal M. de 
Lapalisse, it is imperial. 

There is in existence an authoritative text 
upon the Empire Style, the preface made by 
Fontaine for a collection of plates pubhshed in 
1812 by his friend Percier and himself, under this 

93 



94 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

title : Recueil de decorations interieures^ com- 
prenant toutce qui a rapport a Pameublement^ 
comme vases ^ trepieds^ candelahres^ cassolettes^ 
lustres^ tables^ secretaires^ lits^ canapes^ fau- 
teuils^ chaises^ tabourets^ miroirs^ ecranSy etc. 
The very great influence exercised by these two 
architects upon the whole art of furnishing in 
their own epoch makes a document of this kind 
most valuable, since in it they set out their ideas 
in the form of doctrine. They proclaim above 
all their bitter contempt for the past — the past 
of French art, of course — showing mercy only to 
the sixteenth century, " that century which after 
a long period of barrenness seemed to be a kind 
of scion of antiquity, and which the succeeding 
centuries, in spite of every effort of minds 
searching for novelty, were as far from equalling 
as they imagined they had surpassed it," But 
the full severity of their scorn is reserved for the 
eighteenth century. "The eighteenth century 
displays the meanness, falsity, and insignificance 
of its taste in the gilding of its woodwork, the 
outlines of its mirrors, the contortions of its 
door-heads, its carriages, etc., as in the misce linear 
plans of its buildings and the affected compositions 
of its painters." Complete rupture, then, and 
without any transition period, with the past, or 
rather a very definite intention to carry out this 
rupture, for the past is always too strong to let 
itself be effaced in this way by a stroke of the pen. 
However they disliked it, Percier and Fontaine 
continued it in a certain sense, this despised 



SACRED ANTIQUITY 95 

century that had been unfortunate enough to 
produce a Cressent and an Oeben, a Riesener and 
a Carlin, since it was he who had inaugurated the 
famous return to antiquity ; but Percier and 
Fontaine, Jacob Desmalter and his rivals, the 
Lignereux, the Rascalons, the Burettes, go to the 
end of the path on which their predecessors had 
entered cautiously and without any surrender of 
their independence, they admire everything in 
antiquity, pell-mell, without distinction, Egyptian, 
Greek, Etruscan, Roman, the archaic and the 
decadent, sculpture and furniture, from the 
Parthenon down to the most vulgar decorations 
of the wall daubers of Pompeii. It is antique, 
therefore it is logical ; antique, therefore beautiful ; 
antique, therefore we moderns can do nothing 
better than copy it, and if anyone ventures to 
exercise his critical faculties upon these holy 
things, what sacrilege ! " It would be vain to 
seek for shapes preferable to those handed down 
to us by the Ancients, whether in the arts of en- 
gineering or in those of decoration or industry. . . . 
If the study of antiquity should come to be 
neglected, before long the productions of industry 
would lose that regulating influence which alone 
can give the best direction to their ornaments, 
which in some sort prescribes to every substance 
the limits within which its claims to please must 
be confined, which indicates to the artist the best 
utilisation of forms, fand fixes their varieties 
within a circle which they should never overstep,'* 
And why should ancient articles of furniture be 



96 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

our models for ever? Because " in them can be 
seen the reign of the power of reason, which more 
than anyone thinks is the true genius of archi- 
tecture, of ornamentation and furniture." 

The ideal thing then would be to have in our 
houses nothing but furniture copied from that 
of the Greeks and the Romans. Unhappily 
there are excellent reasons to prevent this. The 
Ancients, by reason of their simple and wholly 
exterior life, had very little furniture and seem 
to have paid very scanty attention to it. There 
were beds for the night's sleep, rest beds for the 
siesta, on which they lay propped up on elbows 
when they wished to write ; couches for dinner, 
tables that were much lower than ours because of 
the reclining posture in which they took their 
food ; tripods on which was set indiscriminately 
a brazier, avrine jar, a tray that turned them into 
tables; arm-chairs, chairs, stools, folding stools, 
coffers . . . and that was all. What native of 
France, even in the best days of the Revolution, 
would have been Spartan enough to be satisfied 
with so little ? 

Since this furniture is so very restricted, how 
is it we have any knowledge of it? Everything 
that was made of wood has disappeared, so that 
we are less familiar with Roman articles of 
furniture of the first century a.d. than we are 
with Egyptian furniture of the fifteenth century 
before the Christian era. The only survivals arc 
articles made of bronze, tripods, legs of tables 
and couches, frames of stools and folding seats, 



A COMPROMISE 97 

and a number of ceremonial thrones in marble, 
like those of the priests of Dionysus at Athens. 
We can only conjecture what the rest were like 
from the representations we find in the bas-reliefs, 
the figures on vases, and some painted decorations 
at Pompeii, which is to say that we know them 
very little, in view of the element of convention 
there always is in antique art. The Greek 
diphros, for example, the chair with a very sloping 
back made of a broad cross piece, very deep and 
fitting the shoulders, and with legs of such a 
strange curve in front and at back, how was it 
made? How could those legs, if they were made 
of wood, have the least solidity or strength ? 
What is certain is that no joiner, either under 
the Revolution or under the Empire, ever even 
tried to reproduce them as they were ; the full 
round of the back was indeed imitated and the 
spreading out of the back legs, though afar off 
and greatly attenuated, and no one ever dreamed 
of modifying the normal vertical line of the 
front legs. 

The scanty furniture which the Ancients 
actually had was then far from well known, and 
we may add that it was far from comfortable, 
and meant for a way of life very different from 
ours, and so it was necessary to invent nearly 
everything, and to modify the rest. In fact, the 
strict imitation of antiquity at which they aimed 
was quite impossible'; and Fontaine was obliged 
to recognise^that there was a great deal of com- 
promise and adapting in it. " We have followed 



98 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

the models of antiquity/' he writes, "not blindly 
but with the discrimination entailed by the 
manners, customs and materials of the moderns. 
We have striven to imitate the antique in its 
spirit, its principles and its maxims, which are of 
all time." It must be recognised that even if 
there are errors in taste, incongruities that make 
us smile, something at once painful, puerile and 
pedantic in this great labour of accommodation, 
it was after all carried out with as happy an 
effect as possible ; and it is most remarkable that, 
starting from a principle so profoundly erroneous, 
it was possible to arrive at creating a style so 
homogeneous and imposing as that which, to take 
an example, displays itself in the smallest details 
of the Hotel de Beauharnais.^ 

The interpretation of the ancient models 
could not avoid the prejudices and fixed ideas of 
the time, in conformity with the ideas that were 
held of the Ancients. What then were the 
Greeks and the Romans in the eyes of the men 
who created or used the furniture of the Empire 
Style ? Something in the manner of Corneille's 
dramatis per sonce as incarnated by Talma, people 
continually and invariably heroical and grandilo- 
quent, their arms always outstretched for terrific 
oaths and vows, or their sword brandished against 
the foes of their country and freedom, who never 
spoke save in sublime aphorisms, in short, entire 
nations of Harmodiuses, Leonidases, Brutuses, 
Catos and Augustuses ; they were those emphatic 
* The late German Embassy in Paris. 



Austere grandeur 99 

fellows out of Plutarch's Lives and Livy's 
histories, who knit their brows and strain their 
wooden muscles in the great stiff canvases of 
Louis David. And then it was sought to imagine 
the furniture that these folk would have had if 
they had known mahogany and flatted gilding, 
veneer and glue, China silks and Utrecht velvet. 
If an arm-chair was designed it was such an arm- 
chair as Leonidas might have sat in without 
being ridiculous, stark naked, his sword between 
his legs and on his head his great casque with its 
flowing horse-hair crest. 

It is quite certain that he could not well be 
imagined in the flowered brocade of a Louis XV 
bergere. . . . And so Percier, Fontaine and the 
rest deliberately turned their backs upon every- 
thing that had been the ideal of the eigtheenth 
century; comfort, intimacy, charming grace- 
fulness, refined and delicate gaiety. They 
set themselves to work on the grand scale, severe, 
heroic; if they had to make furniture for a 
tradesman grown rich, a banker, or a dancer, the 
interiors of their devising always looked as though 
they were awaiting some marshal gone to the 
wars, who would be coming back laden with 
laurels as soon as peace was made. 

It was first of all by the use of new lines that 
this effect of grandiose severity was aimed at, 
lines that became more and more simple and 
rigid, delimiting large even surfaces with tren- 
chant definiteness. The style of Louis XVI had 
already done away with many curved elements, 



100 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

and the Empire carried on the war against them. 
The shape of a box pleased the eyes of this 
generation, the shape of an obelisk was not with- 
out charm for them, and a milestone positively 
enchanted them. Under the Republic at the 
outset turners still find a great deal to do in the 
furniture industry, but the outlines of turned 
parts, that were spindled to begin with, speedily 
become rectilinear ^ ; under the Empire, supports 
of circular section, balusters, quiver legs, pillars, 
are very frequently replaced by pilasters, legs 
with square section. The pillar continues to be 
found at the corners of certain pieces, but de- 
tached and no longer engaged, no longer serving 
to replace a right-angled arris so as to soften the 
contour, it is super-added to it and leaves it 
plain to be seen; it is cylindrical or slightly 
conical, with a base and capital of the order 
known as Tuscan and covered in brass either 
plain or engine-turned and gilt. 

As for mouldings they disappeared almost com- 
pletely, and with them the interest they were 
sufficient in themselves to lend to the simplest 
furniture, thanks to the effects of the Hght on 
their round surfaces and projections. When a 
trace of them appears it is no more than a listel^^ 
a fillet in low relief, a rudimentary doucine * or 
quart de rond,* What is more vexing still is 

* Compare the legs of the chair in Fig. 91 with those of the 
arm-chair in Fig. 93 and the bergere in Fig. 94 ; the arm consoles 
of the arm-chair of Fig. 95 with those of the bergere of Fig. 94 
and the arm-chair of Fig. 93 ; the legs of the console table in 
Fig. 88 with those of Fig. 89. 



A SHARP SILHOUETTE loi 

that this atrophied sort of moulding manages to 
make the outward view of a piece of furniture 
deceitful. It runs, for instance, all round the 
seat frame of an arm-chair, passing without a break 
from the traverses of the seat to the Utes de 
pieds^ as if the legs were set into the frame 
instead of its being the frame whose four traverses 
are mortised into the legs. 

But what is preferred above everything is a 
silhouette as clear cut as if it was made with a 
die ; sharp corners, clean arrises, surfaces meet- 
ing with no transition such as a chamfer * or a 
quadrantal. Sharp angles certainly existed in 
small Louis XVI pieces (very rarely in those 
of considerable size), but always softened by a 
fluting, a moulding or a brass fillet following the 
line of the arris and very close beside it ; the 
eye was not monopolised by the arris, divided 
as it was, so to say, between it and two or three 
other neighbouring parallel lines (Figs. 17, 21, 
etc.). The Empire Style is just the reverse, it 
emphasises the arris and thrusts it upon the eye 
as much as possible. It is enough to have seen 
a single one of those designs by Percier and Fon- 
taine, whose style is so masterly, but so extra- 
ordinarily dry and austere, in order to understand 
the taste of the time for " pure and correct " 
contours — pure and correct meaning, in this case, 
of an uncompromising geometry. 

Let us take as an example the simplest pos- 
sible panelled furniture, an armoire, or a closed 
night table. This is composed of thin panels fitted 



I02 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

into uprights and traverses. In the Louis XVI 
period these uprights and traverses, in accord- 
ance with reason and logic, are in relief and 
frame the panels clearly and distinctly, the archi- 
tecture of the whole piece can be grasped at the 
first glance. Under the Empire the surface of 
the panels is level with that of their frames, and 
a uniform veneer, the eternal veneer of polished 
mahogany, covers everything, conceals the struc- 
ture and putting together, and gives the piece 
the desired aspect of a block whose massive 
appearance no caryatides nor pillar will ever 
avail to mitigate. See (Fig. 88) what has be- 
come of the pleasant bonheur dujour of earlier 
days. A Louis XV piece of furniture has the 
unity of a living creature, the Empire piece the 
unity of a monolith. What still further in- 
creases this massy monumental look is the heavy 
base, which is the ordinary medium by which 
this furniture rests on the ground (Figs. 86 and 
89) ; if it is a table which has to be easily moved, 
the base in question is elevated upon castors, 
which in itself is a further serious wrenching of 
logic. 

There is another principle which the new style 
follows with unflinching rigour, the principle of 
symmetry. And here, too, it is simply an ex- 
aggeration of the Louis XVI Style, it even goes 
beyond the antique. In a room the decoration 
is always symmetrical and the furniture is ar- 
ranged symmetrically, in any piece of furniture 
all the parts balance one another, right and left, 



SYMMETRY 103 

in their smallest details ^ ; a bed, for instance, 
will have a ridiculous rondin^^ or round bolster 
cushion at the foot to balance the one at the 
head; still better, taking each ornament separ- 
ately, if it is not symmetrical with another it is 
so in itself,^ and that even when it is a human 
figure. And so a Winged Victory stretches up 
towards heaven her two hands holding two 
similar wreaths, and the skirt of her robe spreads 
out into precise and symmetrical folds, the 
antique head of a caryatid (Figs. 86 and 89) 
has two absolutely identical plaits or curls of hair 
falling upon her shoulders. 

All this is what Fontaine meant when he 
wrote : " Simple lines, pure contours, correct 
shapes replaced the miscelinear, the curving and 
the irregular." 

r These pieces have no very comfortable look, 
and they are not particularly comfortable either ; 
their hard corners are still less agreeable for our 
limbs to meet with than for our eyes. Arm- 
chairs, at any rate at the outset of the style 
(Fig. 93), often have neither back nor arms 
upholstered, beds present cruel angles on every 
side, and consoles have truly formidable corners. 
There has been quoted a hundred times an 
amusing page on this theme taken from the 
Opuscules of Roederer (1802), but we cannot 

* Observe, on the doors of the lady's bureau, the symmetry of 
the two figures of goddesses, although they are different, the 
same attitude exactly, the same draperies, etc. 

* For instance, the ornamentation of the drawer of the same 
piece« whose flat gilt bronzes are of excellent workmanship. 



104 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

deny ourselves the pleasure of quoting it once 
again, so characteristic is it. Roederer feigns to 
have heard that one of his friends, sick of his 
antique furniture, which is the purest and finest 
in all Paris, wishes to get rid of it, and writes 
him as follows : " . . . You do not realise that 
you have the most complete collection of antique 
furniture ever yet brought together, and that 
every piece has been made from the purest 
designs. . . . Every one of your apartments is 
furnished with pieces that belong strictly to 
the same period, the same year, the same 
people. . . . Not one single anachronism, not 
one single slip in geography in the more 
than seven hundred articles comprised in your 
furniture. No mixing of the Athenian with 
the Lacedaemonian, no confusion between the 
furniture of one Olympiad and that of another. 
Take care, once more I beg of you, take care 
of what you are about to do." But the 
friend is not very susceptible to this wonderful 
archaeology. 

" Confess, my dear fellow," he replies, " one 
is no longer seated, no longer at rest. Not a 
seat, chair, arm-chair or sofa, whose wood is not 
bare and of sharpest corners ; if I lie back I find 
a wooden back, if I want to lean on my elbows 
I find two wooden arms, if I stir in my seat I 
find angles that cut into my arms and hips. A 
thousand precautions are needed to avoid being 
bruised by the most gentle use of your furniture. 
Heaven keep us to-day from the temptation to 



Inferior comfort 105 

fling ourselves into an arm-chair, we should run 
the risk of breaking our poor bones. . . ." 

The proportions of the mixture, so to say, of 
the exact imitation of the antique with attention 
to comfort are the opposite of what prevailed 
during the Louis XVI period ; the latter 
adopted from the antique only what was com- 
patible with comfort and the requirements of 
modern life, the Empire period only admits as 
much comfort as is compatible with its abstract 
notions of pure beauty. This style is therefore 
largely an artificial one, in rebellion against life 
and nature. From this comes the impression 
one has, in a strictly Empire interior, of being 
in a museum ; anything that speaks of life, the 
supple beauty of a bunch of flowers, a woman's 
scarf forgotten on the back of a chair, a seat 
out of place, is like a clap of thunder ; instinct- 
ively one wants to put that arm-chair back in 
its place, to restore the outraged symmetry, to 
shut this book that has been left open and put 
it back in the caryatid adorned bookcase, to pat 
that cushion covered with rich silk, which, be- 
tween those two funereal sphinxes, has dared to 
retain the imprint of a living body. 

This Empire furniture would be of an im- 
possible poverty — since it neither has lines 
interesting in themselves, nor moulding, nor 
carving (except seats perhaps), nor marquetry — 
if it were not for the caryatid supports it so often 
borrows from antiquity, and the ornaments in 
gilt bronze that decorate its shining mahogany 



to6 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

surfaces. A caryatid was, in this period, not 
merely the statue of a woman playing the part 
of a pillar, but any living creature, human or not, 
natural or monstrous, and any mixture of parts 
of living creatures with geometrical forms, 
serving as a support. Caryatides in the proper 
sense of the word, like those of Marie- Antoin- 
ette's jewel casket, are hardly ever made, but 
everywhere are to be found the strange race of 
sphinxes, male and female, with upraised wings, 
eagle-headed chimaeras, winged lions, acting as 
table legs and consoles to the arms of arm-chairs ; 
then monsters still more monstrous, monstrous 
to the point of absurdity, because made up of 
elements that are of different scales, for example, 
the lion vtonopode^ composed of a head and 
chest continued by an enormous paw. An odd 
half human half geometrical motif was at least 
as popular as the sphinx itself. This was a quad- 
rangular stock greatly elongated, from which 
there evolved at the top a bust, generally a 
woman's, and below, two human feet ; bust and 
feet sometimes carved out of the wooden stock 
itself and sometimes made of gilt bronze (Fig. 89). 
Has not even an arm-chair had to endure the 
infliction of two of these terminal caryatids 
acting both as front legs and supports for its 
arms ? Let us add the swans, which this style 
used up in astonishing quantities ; very much 
employed as arm consoles, or as the whole arms 
of arm-chairs or sofas, they have even been seen 
in certain arm-chairs forming the legs with their 



EMPIRE BRONZES 107 

bodies and with their wings the arms of that 
truly monstrous seat. Needless to say that these 
designs are tolerable only if the carving or the 
chasing is excellent, the style vigorous, the lines 
perfectly pure ; it is here that the beauty of the 
workmanship must make itself felt to render the 
strangeness of the conception at all possible to 
accept ; if the workmanship is merely common- 
place, without tone, the whole thing is nothing 
but ridiculous. 

Lastly, it was necessary to decorate those vast 
flat surfaces of dark polished mahogany, which, 
according to the light, are at one time all gloomy 
and dull, and at another vanish in dazzling reflec- 
tions. No period ever made more use of gilt 
brass for the decoration of its furniture. Here 
evolution still goes on. Pieces belonging to the 
Louis XV Style often have a great many bronzes, 
but, especially on simple furniture, they all have 
some use, or, if you will, a pretext of usefulness, 
such as handles, keyhole escutcheons, protective 
corner fittings, very few are pure ornaments. In 
the next epoch gilt bronzes and brasses that are 
purely decorative are multiplied in friezes of 
entrelacs^ in framings ; under the Empire the 
great majority of bronzes are nothing more than 
flat decorations, decorations that might go any- 
where, that could be fixed (and were fixed) as 
well on the traverse of a chimney-piece or the 
base of a clock as on the flap of an escritoire, for 
they were made for no definite use or settled 
place. It seems that Empire furniture disguises 



io8 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

whatever is useful in it, the keyholes are often 
all but invisible, drawers have no handles, and 
are pulled out by the key, or if they have, they 
are hanging rings framing rosaces^ as under 
Louis XVI, 01 p uteres (Figs. 87 and 88), or little 
flat cups, reductions of those that hold up the 
bands of curtains ; a fev7 feet away they might be 
taken for ornamental rosaces only. 

Another characteristic of these bronzes is that 
they are each isolated in its own place, without 
connection with the others or the piece of furni- 
ture as a whole, and juxtaposed vnth no attention 
to the harmony of the scale ; each one is interest- 
ing in itself and must be considered apart. They 
are, besides, often very remarkable for the 
ingenious symmetry of their composition, the 
incisive clearness of their lines, the feeling the 
bronze worker had of what a light silhouette 
showing up against a dark ground ought to be, 
lastly, and above all, by their chasing and their 
gilding, which in fine pieces are superb.^ Once 
the fixed ideas of the style are admitted, when 
the eye has grown accustomed to this systematic 
symmetry and stiffness, and this cold simplifi- 
cation of modelling in the human face, it must 
be recognised that the bronzes made by Thomire 
towards the latter part of his life, or by Ravrio, 
are among the finest in existence. 

Almost all the motifs that appear in these 
ornaments are borrowed from Greco- Roman or 

*The bronzes on the escritoire in Fig. 86 are very good 
examples of these various qualities. 



ORNAMENTS 109 

Egyptian architecture, some from the Italian 
Renaissance. A deliberate reaction against the 
past is displayed in the fact that the antique 
elements already drawn upon by the style of the 
preceding period are nearly all abandoned, 
fluting, for example, triglyphs, entrelacs, etc. 
The antique styles from which inspiration is 
most frequently drawn are the primitive Doric, 
which is not considered even severe enough, the 
fluting is taken from its pillars ; and that bastard 
order, that degenerate Doric called Tuscan ; 
next — ^another Roman invention — ^that Corin- 
thian style overloaded v^th ornamentation known 
as composite. To elements taken from temple 
architecture — acanthus leaves, but stiff and 
flattened out, heavy rinceaux, rosaces^ big 
tight-woven wreaths of a funereal aspect (Fig. 89), 
Greek palm leaves (Figs. 86 and 89), and 
rinceaux made up of the same palm leaves — 
were added everything that could be gleaned 
from altars, tombs, the painted walls of Pompeii, 
pieces of Roman goldsmiths' work. First of all the 
human figure. Victories with palms or v^reaths, 
sometimes mounted on a triumphal car, goddesses 
with tunics like ships' sails bellying in the wind, 
with floating scarves ; Greek dancing girls ; 
sacrificial scenes (Fig. 86), heads of Bacchus 
crowned with vine shoots, Gorgon's heads with 
snake tresses, heads of Hermes with the winged 
petasus, heads of Apollo bristling with rays of 
light. . . . Then the animal world, all the 
monsters we have seen employed as supports, 



iioEMPIRE FURNITURE 

chimseras of every kind, with tails flowing away 
in rinceaux ; and lions, and swans with 
beribboned necks, and Psyche's butterfly, rams' 
heads, horses' heads, masks of wild beasts. . . . 
The vegetable world supplied very little, garlands 
of vines, palms (Fig. 97), laurel boughs stiffened, 
simplified, dried up to a semblance of acacia 
leaves ; flowers of no definite species, with four 
petals ; lastly, poppies greatly used in rinceaux^ 
on beds, of course, and night tables. Finally a 
multitude of objects of every sort and kind : 
crossed cornucopias, amphoras, shallow cups, 
craters. Mercury's caduceus, the Bacchantes' 
thyrsus, the winged thunderbolt of Jupiter, 
Neptune's trident ; weapons, swords, lances, 
Bceotian casques, bucklers ; musical instruments, 
tubas, sistrums, lyres and clappers ; winged 
torches, winged quivers, winged trumpets, lamps, 
tripods. . . . Everything is good, so long as it 
is Greek or Roman. The designers and cabinet- 
makers of the period are hardly endowed with 
powers of invention, besides, it is not their duty 
to invent, but it must be admitted that what 
they borrow on every hand they know how to 
turn to account with rare ingenuity of adaptation 
and handling, ingenuity the more meritorious in 
that it can only be exercised within limits laid 
down by the most inflexible discipline that ever 
existed. 

We have already indicated the essential charac- 
teristics belonging to the technique of Empire 



FLAT GILDING iii 

furniture : very little carving, except on seats, 
little or no use of moulding, the employment on 
a large scale of veneering in enormous surfaces, 
the complete disappearance of marquetry, and in 
certain very refined furniture the inlaying of 
metals, even silver, in mahogany. Mahogany 
was the wood by far the most usually employed, 
either solid or as veneer ; home grown woods, and 
notably our admirable walnut, were abandoned ; 
several cabinet-makers however, among others 
Boudon-Goubeau, attempted to bring into 
fashion, in those days of war with England when 
exotic woods only arrived with great difficulty in 
our ports, knot elm, a fine material of a warm 
reddish colour, with curiously writhed and 
twisted patterns, and yew tree root ; there were 
made certain furniture for bedrooms of light 
coloured woods, maple or lemon wood. 

Bronzes were always flat-gilt ; the process had 
been, it appears, discovered by the great ciseleur 
Gouthiere. Some of them had projecting parts 
and details of ornamentation burnished, or 
polished and made bright afterwards with the 
burnisher, a very debatable practice which 
makes the modelling partly disappear. But 
bronzes were not the only applied ornaments 
with which furniture was decorated. Under 
Louis XVI there had been seen small lady's 
pieces, and even tables-bureaux of pronounced 
masculinity, adorned with Sevres plaques pat- 
terned with flowers. Naturally under Napoleon 
this was looked on as in mean and petty taste ; 



112 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

but the English firm of Wedgwood had now for 
a long time been making its famous plaques with 
bas-reliefs in white biscuit on a blue ground, 
which in spite of their affectedness deserved to 
find a place on the most "antique" pieces of 
furniture, since they were in the fashion of the 
moment and had for subjects nothing but 
ancient scenes ; our antiquo-maniacs never looked 
closer into the matter than this. It is told that 
when Jacob Desmalter was summoned to England 
to furnish Windsor Castle anew, he was seized 
Vidth enthusiasm for these delicate "cameos," 
and ordered great numbers, which were designed 
by Henry Howard, and later on he inlaid them 
in bureaux de dames^ the frames of tables and 
of beds ; their fragility has made them of ex- 
treme rarity to-day. Other cameos were of brass 
enamelled in relief. 

As we have seen, marquetry had completely 
fallen into disgrace, but inlaying was employed 
often enough. Lemon wood and maple were 
inlaid with brown woods ; knot elm and mahogany 
with ebony mixed with brass and even steel; 
and when it was desired to make a quite excep- 
tional piece, recourse was had to materials and 
combinations rarer still : the gilt wood throne 
of Napoleon in Fontainebleau, which is so un- 
graceful with its back shaped in a perfect circle, 
has arms terminating with balls of ivory sprinkled 
with mother-of-pearl stars. 

To decorate seats with metal ornaments is 
rather doubtful in point of logic, yet it was done 



INFERIOR WORKMANSHIP 113 

under the Empire, though rarely. They have, 
as a rule, carvings in low relief ; if they are made 
of mahogany these carvings are sometimes gilt ; 
if they are painted the ground is light coloured, 
grey, white, straw, and the ornaments in relief, 
like the flat mouldings that enframe them, are 
in a much darker colour which shows up strongly, 
unless they are gilt, which is also very frequently 
the case. Lastly, there are always seats gilt all 
over. Consoles, tables and screens are also de- 
corated in the same fashion. 

These various methods are carried out, in the 
case of rich pieces, with an absolute and veritable 
perfection ; in craftsmanship there is nothing to 
surpass the cabinet-maker's art displayed in the 
fine work of Jacob : the careful selection of the 
materials, the exquisite exactness of the joints, 
the meticulous execution of the veneering, the 
finish — perhaps even excessive — of the bronzes, 
nothing whatever is lacking. On the other hand, 
ordinary furniture is very inferior to that of the 
preceding century. Under the uniform cloak of 
films of mahogany how much sapwood there is 
instead of good sound stuff, how many joints 
where glue takes the place of dowels ! Makers 
less conscientious since the guilds were dissolved ; 
buyers looking for something cheap that gives 
the same effect ; how should the honest work- 
manship of old days stand against these two 
cankers ? Everything that once was solid is now 
veneered, down to arm-chairs, down to the round 
legs of tables and the pillars of commodes ; and 



114 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

if this veneering is not done with the very utmost 
care its solidity can be imagined. This was the 
time when one Gardeur devised a way of re- 
placing carvings by ornaments made of moulded 
and lacquered pasteboard ; and for this fine in- 
vention he was awarded a medal at an industrial 
exhibition ! *' Plaster," say Percier and Fontaine, 
" takes the place of marble, paper plays at being 
painting, pasteboard mimics the labours of the 
graving tool, glass takes the place of precious 
stones, varnish simulates porphyry." In fur- 
niture, as in other things, the era of the counter- 
feit is beginning. 



CHAPTER II : VARIOUS 
ARTICLES OF FURNITURE 
AND THEIR USE 

The armoires of the time of the Revolution differ 
very little from those of the pure Louis XVI 
Style. The one we reproduce (Fig. 84) is a 
transition piece with very marked characteristics. 
The flutings of the lower traverse, the legs, the 
chamfered corners and the neutral part of the 
fagade, the frieze of simplified entrelacs that 
reigns under the cornice, the lower panels of the 
doors, all that is Louis XVI ; but the following 
details proclaim a new style : the sharp-ridged 
flutings of the cornice, which are Doric, and 
above all the little middle panels of the doors 
with their lozenges, and the upper panels with 
blunt-cornered lozenges ; the lozenge either com- 
plete or truncated is one of the motifs that are 
most frequently repeated in Directoire furniture.^ 
Under the Empire armoires have less decoration : 
large door panels in a single piece and quite 
plain, angles often accompanied by pillars with 
bases, rings and capitals made of gilt and engine- 
turned brass, the pediment triangular like that 
of a Greek temple, or else a simple horizontal 
cornice. And armoires with mirrors now make 
their disagreeable appearance just at the same 

* It is hardly necessary to say that the ironwork is not " of th« 
period " ; it is older still than the piece itself ; the curves of the 
Louis XV Style can readily be recognised in it. 

"J 



ii6 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

time, strangely enough, as the psyches or cheval 
glasses that rendered them happily unnecessary. 
The under cupboard, or commode with doors, 
continues to be commonly met with in salons 
and in dining-rooms used as a buffet ; it is often 
painted and carved with Pompeiian figures on its 
doors, or Greek arabesques, if it is not made of 
mahogany with gilt metal work. 

Large or small, for men or ladies, the escritoire 
with a drop front is more in favour than ever. 
Under the Republic it cannot be distinguished 
from that of the Louis XVI period except by its 
ornamentation. The lozenge still takes the lion's 
share ; in the model which we have photographed 
(Fig. 85) it is accompanied by stars and by fillets 
enframing panels, the whole being of brass inlaid 
in mahogany. Empire escritoires have in the 
upper part, under the marble top, a cornice 
filled by a drawer, the uprights are pillars, 
terminals with heads of gilded bronze or bronze 
of a dull patina, chimaeras, swans vdth lifted 
wings. The interior shows a kind of niche with 
a mirror back. Small ladies' escritoires have the 
shape, already seen under Louis XVI, of a square 
box upborne on legs that are now chimaeras, 
lions with one paw or caryatid terminals resting 
on a base ; the back of the lower part is furnished 
with a mirror that has no occasion or excuse for 
its existence in this position. 

The bonheur du jour shares in the general 
transformation, it becomes monumental, like the 
rest, within its lesser proportions. We give 



ROUND TABLES 117 

(Fig. 86) a very notable specimen. We may not 
like that base weighing so heavily upon the ground, 
those square pilaster uprights like beams, those 
conventional lion's heads, v^ith their Egyptian 
head-dress, that tall massive superstructure with 
its wretched projecting cornice, but it cannot be 
denied that the sum total has a magnificent 
breadth — ^very far from feminine, it is true — and 
that the bronzes are surpassingly fine. 

The Greeks and the Romans had hardly any 
but round tables, and so nearly all the tables of 
the Empire Style are round. In short, they are 
magnified gueridons. The top, as often as it is 
possible, is a heavy marble or porphyry disc rest- 
ing on a framework of wood, plain or decorated 
with bronzes ; some are supported by a thick 
central pillar, which itself rests on a base nearly 
always in the shape of a curvilinear triangle with 
deeply concave sides ; other have four, or most 
frequently three feet. Naturally when these legs 
are not pillars with base and capital of gilt brass, 
they are caryatides, every imaginable kind of cary- 
atides, in gilt bronze, in bronze of green or black 
patina, in mahogany with or without bronze parts. 
All the monsters that the Greeks had taken from 
Egypt and the East, or had themselves made up 
with perverse and exotic ingenuity, met together 
under these tables, where they are seated as grave 
and patient as dogs waiting till someone throws 
them a bone. There are Egyptian sphinxes, as 
hieratic as heart can wish, the pschent on their 
head and shoulders, Greek sphinxes, more amiably 



ii8 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

things with wings aloft and meeting towards the 
middle of the table ; winged lions, their heads 
dressed up in the Egyptian style, or their manes 
conventionalised in flat regularly ordered locks ; 
griffins whose cruel eagle heads dart furious 
looks ; and that poor one-legged lion doomed, with 
the head and paw to which he is reduced, to hop 
for ever. And again there are termes^ or caryatid 
terminals without feet and with a virile bearded 
head, and even those caryatides with women's 
heads and busts that are simply maids of all work. 
These supports rest on a base, a triangle or a 
cross, according to the number of the feet, which 
is sometimes adorned with a bronze cup at 
the centre. 

Smaller tables are mostly gnertdons of circular 
or octagonal shape, with a central pillar or three 
incurving legs, joined at their middle by a ring 
or a small shelf and ending in lions' claws ; or 
else those antique tripods we have seen making 
their appearance under Louis XVI, vidth their 
hxonzQ pieds de biche legs surmounted by small 
sphinxes, or their lion feet. Tea-tables, work- 
tables (this is the name now given to the 
chiffonmlres of other days) often comprise a 
cassolette to burn perfumes ; this is a new 
fashion that is considered to be very Greek. 

The consoles are rectangular, occasionally but 
not often half-moon shaped. At the very out- 
set of the style (Figs. 87 and 88), they have for 
their supports pillars starting up from an under- 
shelf, which is itself borne on touvie feet ; the top 



THE DRESSING-TABLE 119 

IS white marble, the sides are sometimes curved 
inwards. The classic Empire console rests on a 
base, its front legs are terminals with an antique 
head or some other form of caryatid, the back, 
between the legs, is often fitted with a mirror. 
It is made of mahogany with a top of dark 
marble or porphyry. Another type, painted in 
a light colour with carvings either gilt or painted 
in a different shade, has a white marble top and 
its front legs are carved pilasters. Let us note 
by the way the strange invention of some cabinet- 
maker hunting for novelty at all costs, the 
console-commode^ which is not the "open 
commode" of 1780, but a commode made of 
mahogany, with drawers, fitted under a console 
of carved gilt and painted wood, with a white 
marble top. 

The toilette of the eighteenth century, which 
was perhaps the most characteristic piece of all 
the furniture of that lovable epoch, disappeared 
at the end of the century by dividing and 
duplicating itself. Henceforth a smart woman 
must have her table-cotffeuse^ or dressing-table, 
and her lavabo. The tahle-coiffeuse is rect- 
angular and stands on X-shaped or lyre-shaped 
legs ; its white marble is surmounted by a round, 
or oval, or rectangular mirror a pans coupes^ 
which is held up, by means of two pivots allowing 
it to be sloped as you please, on uprights of gilt 
bronze in the form of quivers or torches 
equipped with branching candelabra. Further- 
more, it was possible to transform into a table- 



I20 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

coiffeiise any table whatever, a console or by 
simply standing on it a mirror of the same kind, 
only movable, and not so large, and mounted on 
a wooden base containing a drawer, in short a 
miniature cheval glass. As for the lavaho^ it is 
the athenienne brought to perfection : an 
antique tripod in two tiers, one carrying a basin, 
the other, the lower one, a ewer. Two swan- 
neck uprights carry, above and at the back, a 
round mirrror and a towel rail. 

The bureau continues to have a roll top, or 
else it is of the shape called bureau ministre^ 
with pedestals of superposed drawers on each 
side of the opening left for the legs of the writer ; 
when this opening is semi-circular the whole piece 
has exactly the look of a triumphal arch, and if, 
as it does happen, this monument stands upon 
eight lions' feet its aspect is not lacking in the 
unexpected. Let us add the monumental book- 
case-bureau, on which terminals and caryatides 
flourish more than ever. Bureaux for ladies are 
now only of the bonheur dujour type we have 
already described : the last of the bureaux h 
dessus brtsiy with sloped fronts, are made during 
the Revolution. Here (Fig. 90) is a curious 
specimen on which republican emblems are dis- 
played in marquetry, the red cap and the pike. 

Let us not forget the flower-tables, they have 
become indispensable everywhere. Percier and 
Fontaine designed some which were regular 
edifices with two and three stories, embellished 
with fountains, basins of gold fish, a statue of 



EMPIRE BEDSTEADS 121 

Flora, and the rest. Simple models for ante- 
chambers were made of sheet iron, painted and 
lacquered, and stood on legs of wood or metal. 

Beds underwent very considerable change of 
shape from 1790 to 1804 or 1805. Those of the 
revolutionary epoch are of two main types, not 
counting the extravagant affairs we have referred 
to, beds *' k la Federation" and others of the 
same kind, which were hardly ever actually made. 
Now it is Louis XVI " angel beds " with a few 
new details ; the head and foot are surmounted 
by triangular pediments, often decorated in the 
middle with a kind of antique vase {t.\itsoupthre)y 
the uprights are balusters ending in pine cones, or 
tiny urns, and carrying at the base and at the 
top those rectangles with horizontal stripes, those 
daisies surrounded or not surrounded by lozenges, 
which distinguish the carved furniture of this 
period. And now it is beds with head and foot 
alike and rolled like the backs of the chairs of the 
same time (Fig. 99). They exhibit the same 
characteristics, antique legs, marguerites, lozenges, 
soupieres^ and so on. Beds of this type, being 
decorated on all four surfaces, have the advantage 
of being able to be placed either with their end 
or their side against the wall. 

But when the Empire Style is fully established 
beds assume a totally different shape. They are 
intended to be seen from the side, or even, most 
frequently, to be placed in alcoves ; of their four 
faces only one of the side faces is to be visible, 
^nd this decpides their whole architecture. They 



122 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

are given the name of " boat beds," and in fact 
with a little goodwill one can see a vague 
resemblance to a skiif with very high prow and 
stern. The head and foot are of exactly the same 
height, and in shape are closely copied from 
certain Greek beds, a little sloped with a roll 
at the top, they deepen towards the lower part 
and often the traverse forming the side of the 
bed is of a concave line to continue the curve of 
the head and foot without a break. The 
ornamentation of gilt bronze often includes two 
large palms occupying the whole height of the 
head and the foot and following their curves. 
This shape is not without elegance; but the 
head and foot, being very deep at the base and 
diminishing towards the top until they end in a 
small and rather mean volute, are likely to show 
a poor and arid profile. That is the classic type 
of Empire bed ; there are others with vertical 
head and foot and columns or pilasters for 
uprights, crowned with globes sprinkled with 
gold stars, antique heads and so forth ; they are 
meant like the others to be seen from the side. 

The variety of Empire seats is much greater 
than might be imagined. Less comfortable as a 
rule than those of the Louis XVI period, they 
have stiffer and heavier lines, the supports of the 
arms of the arm-chairs are perpendicular, they 
are a direct continuation of the line of the legs, 
and often even leg and arm support form one 
single motifs a caryatid, a one-footed lion, a flat 
bjiluster, an anticjue sword in its scabbard. The 



EMPIRE CHAIRS 123 

back legs are curved backwards and the front legs 
are vertical, the back is rectangular, flat or 
hollow^ed to " shovel shape." But there are also 
many other shapes. In fact there perhaps never 
was any epoch when more attempts were made 
at new combinations of lines for seats. Certain 
arm-chairs, quite like those of the time of Louis 
XV, have hardly a single straight line in them. 
Indeed, if the Empire Style is prone to seek 
for broad simple lines, they are by no means 
always straight lines ; we have just seen this in 
the case of the " boat " beds. And so we meet 
with chair backs whose profile forms a line of the 
shape of an elongated S, continuous, with no 
visible break, through the side traverse of the 
chair up to the very top of the front leg ; 
" gondola " chairs whose back, hollowed into a 
half cylinder, is joined to these same front legs 
by a hollow curve ; arms without consoles that 
end in huge open volutes resting directly on the 
top of the legs, an arrangement that remained in 
favour up to the middle of the century; and 
many other manipulations of lines, variants with 
more or less logic or grace, but of which some 
are real happy finds that our contemporary 
artists have not failed to profit by. 

Before the Empire, properly so called, there 
are two types met with above all others. These 
are, first, seats still near the Louis XVI type, 
whose back, stuffed and slightly concave, has 
sides that spread out towards the top, making 
" horns" more or less accentuated (Fig. 95); the 



U4 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

uprights of these backs are in one piece with the 
back legs, which are curved outwards, and these 
chairs present a very elegant line. 

The others are seats with rolled backs (Figs. 91, 
92 and 93). The back, curved outwards like the 
legs that are in continuation with it, is of plain 
bare wood painted in bright colours when it is 
not mahogany, and more or less open-worked. 
The top is made of a broad cambered traverse, 
which, if solid, carries an ornament carved in 
relief, a soupiere (Fig. 91), rtnceaux or running 
foliage, sphinxes facing each other, a lozenge 
with radiating stripes that recall the idea of a 
daisy, etc. ; these carvings are often painted 
cameo fashion. Below this traverse there is an 
open-work motif, a palm leaf, a grille with lozenge 
openings, etc. If the top of the back is also 
pierced, it presents an opening (Fig. 93) that 
allows the chair to be easily taken hold of in 
order to move it about, or else (Fig. 92) a turned 
bar. The supremely pure lines of the best of 
these chairs, their slender, clear-cut elegance, 
fined dovm, a trifle dry and austere, make them 
articles capable of satisfying the most fastidious 
taste, which are like nothing else, and are pre- 
ferred above everything by certain very refined 
and discriminating connoisseurs. The specimens 
which we reproduce, as well as the delicate and 
graceful bergere of Fig. 94, carry the stamp of 
the brothers Jacob ; their faultless workman- 
ship makes them very strong in spite of their 
slightness. 



CHAIR ARMS 125 

Whether they are of the one type or the other, 
chairs of the Revolutionary period have their 
front legs turned and quiver-shaped or balusters ; 
the arms of the arm-chairs end in round knobs 
(Fig. 95), in little volutes (Figs. 93 and 94), or 
else they are cut off square and have a daisy 
carved in relief on the top of the extremities 
(Fig. 92). The consoles are balusters or little 
pillars. The carved ornament, soberer than 
sober, consists of daisies, lozenges, fillets in relief, 
serrated lines, etc., v^hich are painted in a dark 
colour when the chair is painted light. Let us 
not forget a very characteristic ornament, the 
little palm leaf (Figs. 93 and 94), or the shell 
(Fig. 92) that surmounts the point where the 
arm of the arm-chair springs from the upright. 

Under the Empire seats are not so elegant, 
more massive, richer, more comfortable also, and 
the back is invariably stuffed. Arm-chair arms 
are often, in imitation of the Greek ceremonial 
thrones, winged chimaeras or swans, whose wings 
are brought back and raised at the tips, carrying 
the stuffed pads, and join the uprights of the 
back. Wits are stretched, and all ingenuity 
brought into play to discover antique or near- 
antique objects that might be turned into arms, 
for instance, military bell-trumpets in the shape 
of a dolphin's head. Simpler arms are square or 
cylindrical, they are often enough mortised into 
the head of the consoles, on top of which is 
placed a kind of carved pommel ; or else it is the 
arm into which the console is driven, and which 



126 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

ends in a flat section ornamented with ^fleuron. 
The top of the back as a rule is straight, the 
traverse forming it is fairly broad and presents, 
between two flat mouldings, a carved plat-band 
which answers to that of the front of the seat. 
The front legs are square pilasters with carved 
plat-band or turned quiver- shape, frequently 
pinched in the middle by a bracelet. Seats are 
now beginning to be regularly upholstered h 
elastiqueSy that is to say with springs. 

It was at this period were created the last 
models of straw chairs that were in any degree 
treated with care, the last whose shape is of any 
interest. The back is made of a row of balusters 
turned in spindle-shape, and surmounted by a 
broad traverse more or less cambered. Another 
type of back shows a flat central motif, pierced 
and carved, and an arched traverse that to right 
and left projects beyond the uprights. The 
arms of straw arm-chairs keep the Louis XV and 
Louis XVI shape with consoles set back or 
consoles that continue the legs but curve out- 
wards. This last type of straw chair persisted 
till about 1830. 

Empire sofas do not demand any special de- 
scription as they were hardly anything but 
magnified arm-chairs. There is one new shape 
however to chronicle, the sofa a la Pommier^ 
whose very low back comes out in front at a right 
angle to form the arms. As for chaises longues, 
they are hardly ever made brisee now, they are 
of two kinds, each imitated from antique rest 



HEROIC & ERUDITE STYLE 127 

beds. Some have head and foot exactly alike 
and sloped, like the one in David's studio that 
has been made famous by the portrait of Madame 
Recamier, or else unequal (Fig. 98). Others, 
called meridiennes^ have three dossiers^ the 
one by the head is higher and is joined to that 
at the foot by a straight line, or, more grace- 
fully, by a long S-shaped curve (Fig. 97). All 
are more or less akin to the " boat " bed. 

We have described the arbitrary and intolerant 
character of this style; v^^e have shown hov7 it 
rose in rebellion against all that had gone before 
it. It follows that Empire furniture seldom 
takes kindly to the presence near it of Louis XVI 
or Louis XIV pieces, and still less to Louis XV 
furniture ; they resist any amalgamation. If we 
wish to have a room or a flat in this style, it will 
therefore be essential that the furniture should 
be homogeneous down to the smallest details, or 
else it would be better to give up the idea. 

It is a style, too, that constantly aims at the 
grandiose, a grave majesty; in short, a heroic 
and learned style. It lacks intimacy, it is not 
very lovable, not very comfortable, chilly, and 
more mascuHne than feminine. In a royal 
residence or an ambassadorial mansion it is com- 
pletely in keeping and will never be unworthy of 
any greatness. If it adorns and furnishes the 
library of a savant, an architect's studio, nothing 
can be better ; a magistrate's room will also be 
marked out as its proper domain, or a lav^yer's, 



128 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

a doctor's, a financier's, for it is calculated to 
help in impressing simple-minded clients. But 
a gay babel of laughing ladies, a light and gallant 
tournament of flirtation, or the untrammelled 
pouting and petulance of children, and the day- 
by-day joys of family life would be a sort of 
incongruity among the austere clan of those 
antique heads, the winged sphinxes and lions 
with scowling masks, with their fixed looks, in- 
timidating like a mute reproach. The Empire 
Style then we consider should be reserved for 
formal and ceremonious rooms, such as offices, 
studies, board-rooms, libraries and the like. 

Under the Empire the walls of a salon were 
polished stucco, with pilasters with gilded base 
and capital, and frequently panels painted in a 
more or less antique style : flying figures, 
allegories, trophies, arabesques in light-coloured 
cama'ieu upon a background of Etruscan brown ; 
above, a high frieze and a cornice with gilt orna* 
mentation. If the walls were hung, the hangings 
were no longer flat and stretched, but draped 
and caught up at regular intervals by gold nails 
or tassels so as to form curving folds ; however, 
our modern care for hygiene and cleanliness will 
lead us to put aside with horror a fashion so 
favourable to the accumulation of dust. The 
windows were equipped with two or three 
curtains, one on top of the other and of different 
colours ; violet, brown, and white for example, 
and draped in the most complicated way. The 
hangings in the most elegant homes might be 



WALL HANGINGS 129 

woollen material decorated with applique, as 
well as of silk ; and at the same time silks became 
more and more common, thanks to the newly 
invented Jacquart loom. Besides the Genoa 
velvets and the damasks that were continually 
employed, there were on walls and seats those 
sumptuous materials known as grafids faconnes, 
and paduasoy^ and lanipas brocaded in' yellow 
on a bronze green ground, gold on a violet or 
brown ground, white on sky-blue, with massive 
wreaths, rosaces, compartments laden with 
arabesques, trophies of weapons, antique figures, 
bands decorated vnth Greek palms. 

Often the floor was left bare, but Turkey 
carpets were as a special favour permitted in the 
most antique of interiors. The indispensable 
furniture was, in the middle of the room a 
heavy round table with caryatid supports, and a 
marble or porphyry top ; along the walls consoles 
on caryatides and fitted with mirrors, monu- 
mental sofas symmetrically flanked with arm- 
chairs ; in one corner t\it piano-forte y a rare and 
costly novelty ; and that other instrument that 
was above everything characteristically Empire, a 
harp. On the chimney-piece would be one of 
those amazing allegorical timepieces in which the 
oddity of invention is not uncommonly redeemed 
by the supreme beauty of the chasing ; it would 
be protected by a glass cover and accompanied by 
two caryatid candelabra and two vases of antique 
shape made of white porcelain with gold decor- 
ation and a painted medallion, these vases — a 



130 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

horrible detail, but absolutely accurate — would 
be adorned with artificial flowers and placed 
under cover. On the console tables still more 
Greek vases, jardinieres of painted iron, alleged 
to be in " antique lacquer," full of flowers, and 
those new lamps of Quinquet's which in David's 
studio it was not thought unbecoming to decorate 
with paintings. 

Beyond its moral propriety, if we might 
venture on the phrase, the Empire Style has one 
great merit for furnishing a working study, it is 
easy to add to the furniture of this period a 
modern bookcase, or rather bookshelves that will 
neither be incongruous nor an anachronism, if they 
are made of polished mahogany with no other 
ornamentation but a sober and classic moulding. 
A massive writing-table and commode, a console 
with chimaeras, an escritoire with a flap front or 
an under cupboard, a round writing-chair whose 
back will be low, in the antique fashion, and fit 
well into the sitter's back, on the chimney-piece 
a square clock of fine polished porphyry and 
flambeaux of black and gold bronze ; all this, 
which will be free from gaiety or frivolity, will 
be able to exercise a kind of grave charm favour- 
able to brain work, though one be neither a 
Frederic Masson nor a d'Esparbes, provided the 
carving of the caryatides and the chasing of the 
metal ornaments are not too vulgar. 

Finally, as it is not beyond the bounds of 
possibility that someone may have a whim to 
sleep in an Empire room, let us open our good 



AN EMPIRE BEDROOM 131 

Caillot for the last time at the page on which he 
briefly describes the room of a " well-to-do 
bourgeois," a "tradesman doing good business." 
" It is not uncommom to find in their bedroom, 
besides the mirror that adorns the chimney-piece, 
a nice clock in front of that mirror, two handsome 
flambeaux of ormolu, coloured wall paper, the 
commode of mahogany with a white marble top 
surrounded by a little railing of gilt brass, an 
escritoire also in mahogany, a mahogany bed 
adorned with gilt emblems, bronzes by Ravrio, 
and an Aubusson carpet. At the back of the 
alcove, which is sheltered by taffeta curtains 
from the rays of the sun, a mirror repeats the 
decoration of the room, and serves madame for 
the beginning of her toilette the moment she 
lifts her head from her pillow." Caillot might 
have added, and the picture would then have been 
complete, the great oval cheval glass, the washing- 
stand on its three legs and the meridienne for 
hours of careless ease. Can you not see her in 
this old-world frame, this good bourgeoise of 
1 8 10, in her night jacket, undoing her curl-papers 
as she waited for them to bring her the Moniteur 
de r Empire, in which she will perhaps learn of 
the exploits of the handsome colonel of hussars 
for whom her heart sighs in secret ? 

And now we have come to the end of these 
little volumes on French furniture. We shall 
not go beyond the year 18 15, for the Empire 
Style is verily the last that is worthy, a youngest 
brother and somewhat weakly, to find a place in 



132 EMPIRE FURNITURE 

the glorious family of French styles. We have 
for some years now been having dinned into our 
ears a certain " Restoration Style " and even a 
" Louis Philippe Style," w^hich our mania of re- 
habilitation has taken up with enthusiasm, and 
which efforts are being made to have pass, if not 
for beautiful (that would be too hard) at least 
for amusing. Everybody knows that this indul- 
gent adjective serves at the present moment as a 
password for the most hideous atrocities of every 
kind, dresses or pictures, furniture, wall papers 
or theatrical scenery. Naturally, of course, certain 
dealers are not backward in helping the movement 
on ; they are in hopes of repeating their master 
stroke of some five-and-twenty years ago when 
Empire furniture suddenly came into vogue 
again. Are they beginning to find it difficult to 
get hold of choice pieces for a song in order to 
sell them at a high figure, the meridienneSy 
the flambeaiix-boiiillotes, or the jardinieres of 
painted sheet iron of the time of Josephine and 
of Marie Louise ? That's of no consequence ! 
One fine day the fiat will go forth that the 
wretched so much vilified furniture of 1820 or 
1 840 is odd, amusing, in short fashionable ; what 
more do you want ? Naturally and as a matter 
of course, the goodly herd of snobs will follow 
with its customary touching docility, and begin 
to pay royally for this rubbishy stuff. 

We will be very careful not to become in any 
way, however small, accessory to this wretched 
farce, which let us hope will not last for long. 



DEGENERACY IN STYLE 133 

The case is judged and well judged. The so- 
called Restoration Style is not a distinct style, it 
is nothing else, when it is not essaying shapeless 
imitations of the Gothic, but a degenerate Empire 
Style, which keeps growing more and more im- 
poverished and heavy. As for the Louis Philippe 
pieces they must keep their bad repute. Ill 
proportioned, flabby and beggarly in lines, both 
scrimped and heavy at the same time, as ill 
constructed as they are coarsely carved, they 
deserve neither to appear again in our houses nor 
to be imitated by novelty hunters bitten with 
paradox and empty of invention. Peace therefore 
to the dust that covers them, and to the worms 
that are gnawing them away in the depths of 
provincial garrets ! 









FIG. I. LEAF OF A DOOR. 



Fig, 2. PANEL OF CARVED WOOD. 



PI. I 




Fig. 3.' NORMANDY CUPBOARD IN OAK. 



PI. 2 




Fig. 4. CUPBOARD WITH REVOLUTIONARY EMBLEMS. 



Pi. 3 




Fig 5. LARGE CUPBOARD FROM THE GIRONDE, HALF-MOON SHAPED. 

PI. 4 




Fig. 6. 



MAHOGANY CUPBOARD FROM THE SOUTH-WEST OF FRANCE, 

WITH MOULDINGS. PI. 5 




Fig. 7- PROVENCAL CUPBOARD IN WALNUT. 



PI. 6 




Fig. 8. CREDENCE SIDEBOARD FROM ARLES. IN WALNUT. 



PI' 7 




Fig. 12. ETAGERE FROM ARLES, IN WALNUT. 




FIG. 13. KNEADING TROUGH FROM ARLES. IN WALNUT. 



PL 9 




Fig. 14. VITRINE IN MAHOGANY WITH BRASS ORNAMENTS. 

PI. 10 




Fig. 15. CORNER CUPBOARD IN MARQUETRY OF DIFFERENT 

COLOURED WOODS. /V. li 




Fig. i6. DROP FRONT ESCRITOIRE IN MARQUETRY WITH 

GILT BRONZES. PI- I2 




Fig. 17. BONHEUR DU JOUR WITH ROLL FRONT, IN MAHOGANY AND BRASS. 

PI. 13. 




Fig. i8. commode with TWOj drawers and on, legs, IN MARQUETRY. 

PL 14 




T9 



V 



I 



Fig. 19. COMMODE WITH TERMINAL-SHAPED LEGS AND PIERCED BRASSES, 

IN WALNUT. 




f IG. 20. COMMODE WITH FLUTINGS, DIMINISHED AT THE BASE, 

IN WALNUT. PI. 15 




Fig 22. COMMODE ON LEGS, IN MAHOGANV VENEER. 




Fig. 23. COMMODE WITH "PIEDS DE BICHE," IN ROSEWOOD, 

TULIP-WOOD AND LEMON-WOOD. PI. 17 







(I) 

§ 

O 
o 

o 

z 

> 

s 





Fig. 25. 



TALL CHIFFONNIERE WITH TOUPIE FEET, IN 
MAHOGANY AND BRASS. 



PL 19 



n 

Fig. 27. CARD TABLE ON PIVOT, IN MAHOGANY". 

w 

Fig. 28. TRIANGULAR FOLDING TABLE, IN WALNUT. 

PI. 21 




Fig. 31. CONSOLE WITH TWO LEGS, IN PAINTED WOOD. 




Fig. 32. CONSOLE WITH TWO LEGS, IN WALNUT. 

PL 23 




< 



O 





si 

9< 





Fig. 40. ARMCHAIR OF PAINTED WOOD, UPHOLSTERED IN 

UTRECHT VELVET. P/. 28 




X a. 



< 






u 
< 




FIG. 47. LARGE ARM-CHAIR COVERED IN AUBUSSON, GILT WOOD. 

PI. iz' 




o 

Q 

S 

2 





'CONFESSIONAL 




(A 

M 
X 



Q 
M 

P< ^ 
WW 

O w 

8° 

HW 



O 




■"~1P 



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IT) 




Fig. 74. 



FOUR-POSTER BED FROM LORRAINE, 
RENAISSANCE TRADITION 



CARVED IN THE- 

PI-A7 




Fig. 75. ANGEL BED WITH "HAT "-SHAPED DOSSIERS IN PAINTED WOOD_ 

Pi. 48. 




Fig. 76. ANGEL BED WITH ARCHED DOSSIERS, IN PAINTED WOOD. 

PL' 49 



Q 
< 

H 

D 

So 

U 



ygg 





Fig. 79. CASE CLOCK IN 
OAK, PARIS. 



Fig. 8o. case CLOCK: IN 
OAK FROM LORRAINE. 



P/.51 




8« 






Fig. 84. CUPBOARD, FROM THE GIRONDE, IN WALNUT 

(BEGINNING OF THE STYLE). PU 53 




Fig. 85. 



DROP FRONT ESCRITOIRE IN MAHOGANY WITH BRASS INLAY 
(BEGINNING OF THE STYLE). PI. 54 




Fig. 86. BONHEUR DU JOUR IN MAHOGANY WITH FLAT-GILT 

BRONZE ORNAMENTS. PI- 55 





Q W 
2 iA 



6^ 



oS 




z 

c 
« 

Q 
Z 
< 

> 
< 

o 
o 

< 



Fig. 90. 



SLOPE-FRONTED BUREAU WITH REVOLUTIONARY EMBLEM. 

PI. 58 







O . 






s« 




<Jffl 




ujo. 



INDEX-GLOSSARY 



Acanthus leaf in ornament, 48 

*' Accotoirs," 69 

Alembert, d', 41 

Allegorical furniture after 

Egyptian campaign, 29 
Amateur (L*), comedy, 9 
"American bureau," the, 66 
" Angel bed " {see ' ' Lit d'ange ") 
Antilles, woods from the, 49 
Antin,Capucins d', convent of, 17 
Antiquity, Greco-Roman, influ- 
ence on style of furniture, 1-4, 
39. 40, 86 
sacred character of, 95-96 
Antoinette, Marie, escritoire and 
commode of, by Riesner, II 
boudoir at Fontainebleau, 

17,49 
chair of, 74 

jewel cupboard by Schwerd- 
feger, 19 
Arabesques, 48-49 
Aranjuez, 34 
Arcade, Rue de 1', 17 
"Arcatures (a)," 73 
Architecture, the Greek manner 
in, 5, 6, 17 
Louis XVI Style in, 78, 79 
Areola, 28 

Aries, buffets from, 86-87 
Arm-chairs of the transition 
period, 9, 10 
antique, of the Revolution- 
ary period, 23 
Empire Style, 103 
Annoires, Louis XV Style in 
the provinces, 52 
Empire Style, 1 15 
from the Gironde, 53, 54 
from Provence, 54 
" taking of the Bastille," 53 
Arthur, paper-maker, 79 



Artois, Comte d*, sleeping 

chamber of, 18 
" Asperge," 46 

Assembly, the Constituent, 21 
" Atheniennes," 20, 50, 64 
Aubert, designer, 20 
Aubusson, carpets, 131 
Avril, Etienne, 13, 19 

BACHAUMONT, Mcmoires Secrets, 

9 
Backs of chairs, 70-71 
Bagatelle, style, 17 
"Balustres," 47 
Barras, influence, 26 
Barry, Madame du, 37 
Barthe, N. T., 9 
Barthelemy, Abb6, Voyage du 

Jeiine Aiiacliarsis, 15 
Bas-reliefs, 97 
Bastille, taking of the, "ar- 

moire," 53 
Beauharnais, Hotel de, 98 and 

note 
Beauvais tapestry, 28 
Bedroom, furnishing the, 87-89 

an "Empire," 130-31 
Beds, Louis XVI Style, 75 

boat, 122-23 

Empire Style, 121 

the "lit d'ange," 75-76, 88, 
121 
Bellange, 28 
Bellicard, see Cochin 
Bellona, 29 
Benedictines, the, 5 
Beneman, Guillaume, 19 
Bergeres, popularity, 71-72 
Berthaud, upholsterer, 28 
Boat beds, 122, 123 
" Bonheur du jour," 56, 66, 82, 
1 16-17 



135 



136 



INDEX. GLOSSARY 



'* Bonnetieres," 89 
Bookcase bureau, 120 
Bosio, Jean, 24 
Boucassin, 90 
Boucher, Sieur, 21-22 
Boudins, 45 
Boudon-Goubeau, ill 
Bouillotte, game of, 63 
Boulle, Andre-Charles, 19 
" Bout de bureau," 65 
Brass inlay, 13, 50-51 

gilded, 56 

leg ornaments, 6l 

pierced brass, 55 
Breakfast table, the, 64 
Brimborions, 44 
Brongniart, works, 17, 18 
Bronze, artists in, 44 
Bronzes, the " ancient," 9 

Empire, 107-8 
Brosses, President de. Let lies, 3, 4 
Brown, " Etruscan," 23 
Brumaire, coup iVitat of, 31 
Brun (Le), 16 
" Bucranes," 48 
Buffet, a " Normandy," 86-87 
" Buffet-credence," 87 
Buffets, style in the provinces, 52 
"Buflfets-Vaisseliers," 90 
Buonaparte, General, mansion, 

28-29 
Bureau-ministre, 65-66, 120 
" Bureaux a dessus brise," 120 
"Bureaux de dames," 112 
Bureaux, Louis XVI Style, 65-66 

l8th century, 120 
Burette, 95 

Cabinet-makers of Louis XVI, 

10, 18-19 
"Cabinet" mounted on legs, 17th 

century, 57 
" Cabriolet (en)," 70 
Caffieri, bronzes, 45 
Caillot, Mcmoires quoted, 79-82, 

85, 87, 89, 131 
" Camaieux," 17 
''Canapes," 74-75 
" Canaux," 46 



Cane-seated chairs, 72-73 

"Cannelures," 46 

Canova, 33 

" Capital," the, in ornament, 47 

Card-tables, Louis XVI, 63 

Carlin, Martin, 12, 19, 95 

Carnavalet Museum, 53 

" Carre aux," 72 

Caryatides, 20, 47, 56, IO6-IO7 

Cased clocks, 89-90 

" Cassolette," 1X8 

Castors, use of, 61 

" Cathedra," 20 

Caylus, Comte de, 3, 4 

Cellerier, 17 

Ceramics, Greco-Etruscan, 15 

Cerceau, A., 2 

Chairs, Louis XVI, 68-71 

a la capucine, 72 and note 

backs of, 70-74 

"canapes," 74-75 

cane-seated, 72-73 

"consoles montantes," 70 

" consoles reculees," 69-70 

coverings for, 81 

dining-room, 87 

Empire, 123-27 

" en cabriolet," 70 

lyre-backed, 74 

mahogany, 72 

straw, 72-74 

the"bergere," 71-/2 
"Chaise-longue," the, 75, 88, 

126-27 
Chalgrin, works of, 17 
" Chandelle," 46 
Chanterine, Rue, 17-T8, 28 
"Chapiteau," the, 77-78 
"Chaplets" of olives, etc., 46 
Chateaubriand, 16 
Chenier, Andre, poems, 16 
Cherry-wood, use, 74 
Chififonnieres. 60, 64, 118 
Chimney-pieces, Louis XVI 

Style, 79 
Chinese lacquer panels, 12 

papers, 77 

trinkets, 86 
"Chinoise (a la) "bed, 75 



INDEX-GLOSSARY 



137 



Choiseul-Goufl&er, Grcce-Pittor. 

esque, 14 
"Chutes,'^ 47, 49, 56 
"Chutes de guirlandes," 48 
Clocks, ornamental, 16 

cased, 89-90 

Louis XVI Style, 77 
Cochin, 3 

article in the Mcrciire, 6-9 

Bellicard and, Observation 
stir les antiqnitcs d* Hcrcu- 
laitum, 4-5 
"Coin," the, 55 
Colours, light, vogue of, 79 

for drawing rooms, 80-81 
"Column," ihe, use in ornament, 

46-47 
"Commode ouverte a I'an- 

glaise," 59 
"Commodes a dessus brise,'* 60 
Commodes "en con,sole," 58 
Commodes of the transition 
period, 10 

construction, 58-59 

faults in decoration, 59-60 

Louis XVI, 57-58 

Provencal, 58 

the half-moon, 59 
Compiegne, 34 
Conciergerie, the, 74 
Condillac, 41 
Condorcet, Lycee, 1 7 
"Confidents," 75 
Console pier glass, 59 
Console, the, 47 

Empire Style, 118-19 

Louis XVI Style, 62-63 
"Console-commode," 119 
"Consoles d' accotoirs," 70 
"Consoles montantes," 70 
"Consoles reculees," 69-70 
Convention, furniture for the, 25 
"Corbeil de vannerie," 72 
Corinthian style, 109 
" Cotes," 46 

Country house furnishing, 89 
Cressent, 95 
Cupboards, Louis XVI, 52-54 

comer, 55-56 



Curule chairs, 20 
Darthenay, mernoire historiqufi, 

4 

David, F. A. {see Marechal, 
Sylvain) 

David, Jacques Louis, influence, 6 
Beiisarius, 16 
canvases of, 99 
his antique pieces, 24 
Napoleon and, 31 
Oath of the Horatii, 16 
on ornamentation, 42 
portrait of Mme. Recamier, 

127 
studio, 130 

Decoration, internal, end l8th 
century, 17 

Deffand, Marquise du, 38 

Delacroix, quoted, 40 

Delorme, Philibert, 2 

"Denticules," 45 

Designers, furniture, 20 

Desmalter, Jacob, work of, 25, 
29, 33, 95, 112 

Diderot, 5, 38, 39- 

Dining-room, furnishing the, 
86-87 

Dining-tables, extending, 62 

"Diphros," chair, 97 

Directoire Style, 17, 26-27, 69 
and note, II5 

Dolphins, 48 

" Don d'Amitie," inscription, 45 

Doric frieze, 47 

style in brasses, 109 

" Dossiers," 76 

" Dossiers en chape au," 71 

" Doucine," 100 

Drawing-room, the walls, 79-80 
furniture, Caillot,7Mo/t'(/, 81- 

82 
knick-knacks, 85-86 
mixing of styles, 82-84 

Dresden ornaments, 81, 85 

Duchesses, 75, 88 

Dugourc, designer, 20 

Ebony, disuse and re-appearance 
of, 49-50 



13^ 



INDEX. GLOSSARY 



Egyptomania, 15, 29, 108-9 
Elastiques, a,st3^1e of upholstery, 

126 
Elysee, the, 34 

Empire furniture, history of the 
style, 1-2, 9-10, 19 

bronzes, 107-8 

characteristics, 93-100 

colours used, 84-85 

development of the, 20-21, 
26, 30-34 

ornaments, loS-iO 

technique, IOO-107 
"Entrelacs," 9, 45, 62 
" Entrelacs a rosaces," 56 
Escritoire, the large drop-front, 
56 

Empire Style, 1 16 
Escurial, 34 
Etruscan brown, 23 

goblets, 28 
"Evoe," 28 

Federation, day of the, 22 

beds a la, I2i 
"Feuilles d'acanthe," 45 
" Feuilles d'eau," 45 
Flat gilding, 45, III 
"Fleuron," 126 
" Fleurs de Vincennes," 65 
Flower-tables, 120-121 
Flutings of marquetry, 46-47 
Fontaine, Pierre, and Charles 
Percier, art of, 2, 18, 25, 28, 

31-34 
allegorical pieces, 30 
designs for flower-tables, 

I 20-1 2 I 
Egyptian pieces, 29 
influence on the art of 

furnishing, 93-96 
on compromise, 97-98 
on the new mouldings, 1 14 
use of new lines, 99-IOI, 103 
Fontainebleau, boudoir of Marie 
Antoinette, 17, 49 
furniture in style of Louis 

XIV, 18 
Napoleon's throne, 1 12 



Fontainebleau, work of Beneman, 

19 
Four-poster bed, 75 
Francois I, 2 
French decorative art, Egyptian 

architecture in, 15 

Gabriel, architect, 59 
Garde-Meubles, palace, facades, 

II, 59 

Gardeur, discovery, 114 

Giovanni of Udine, 49 

Gironde, armoire from, 53 

" Godrons," 45 

Goncourt Bros., cited, 21 

Gouthiere, 45, m 

"Gouttes,"47, 56 

"Grands fagonnes," 129 

Greco-Struscan ceramics, 15 

Greco-Roman motifs, 108-9 

"Greek manner," articles in the, 
3^ 5-9, 69, 77 
fashions under the Empire, 

117-18 
influence at time of Revolu- 
tion, 21 
monumental architecture, 17 

Greeks, furniture of the, 96-98 

Greuze, 39 

Grimm, Diderot and, Correspond- 
ence liiierairc, 7 

Grotesques, 48 

Gueridon, the, 64, I17-18 

Guilds, suppressed by the Revo- 
lution, 25-26 

Hamilton collection, some 

gems, II, 15 
Hancarville, 15 
Handles, "drop," of Louis XVI 

epoch, 57-58 
" Haricots," ornament, 54 
" Hat " design, the, 71, 73, 76 
Hellenic art, Roman, and, 15 
Herculaneum, discovery, 4 
book on, 4-5 
style, 20 
Hervieux, Mile, d', mansion of, 

17-18 



INDEX. GLOSSARY 139 



Homer, influence seen in salon 

of 1785, 16, 17 
"Horse-shoe" back, 73 
Hdpital, Marquis de 1', Mcnioire 

historiqiic, 4 
Howard, Henry, 1 12 

" IMPERIALE (a 1')," beds, 75 
Indian ornaments, 86 
Inlay work, 13, 112 
Inscriptions, Academie des, 3, 5 
Interiors of the Republic, 28 
Ionic capital, use, 47 
Italian tour, fashion of the, 3 
'* Italienne (a 1')," beds, 75 

Jacob, Georges, 24, 25, 113, 124 

Jacquart loom, the, 129 

Japanese trinkets, 86 

Jardiniere, the, 65 

Joiners, guild of, 50, 73 

Jones, 46 

Josephine, restoration of Mal- 

maison, 31, 132 
Jones pieiiics, 71 
Journal de la Mode et du Gouty 

21, 23 
Jouy linen, 88 

Kaufmann, Angelica, 33 
Keyholes, Louis XVI Style, 55 » 

56.58 
Kneading-trough, the, 87 
Knick-knacks, popularity, 85-86 
Knitting, the rage for, 64 

Lacquer, the Martin, 49 
Lalonde, designer, 20 
*' Lampas," 129 
"Lanternes," 81 tiote 
Lassalle, Philippe de, 80 
"Lavabo," the, I19-20 
Ledoux, 2 

Legion of Honour, Palace of, 17 
Legs, characteristic, 6o-6i 

bed, 76 

chair, 68, 69 
Leleu, 13, 19 
Lepalisse, M. de, cited, 93 



Leroy, 3 

Lescotr, Pierre, 2 
Levasseur, 18 
Lignereux, 95 

Lines of construction, transform- 
ation in, 9-10 
" Listel," 160 

"Litd'ange," 75-76,88, 121 
Literature, the antique in, 15-16 
Livy, influence seen in salon of 

1785, 16-17 
Louis XII, 2 

Louis XIV Style, copied by 
cabinet-makers of Louis XVI, 
18-21, 37 

bureaux, 66 

colour, 84-85 

ornaments, 45 
Louis XV Style, decay of, I-3 

a drawing-room, 82 

a "Louis Quinze," by Riese- 
ner, lO 

armoires, 54, 76 

basket-shaped ottomans, 74 

beds, 75 

bronzes, 107 

bureau in the Louvre, 1 1 

card-tables, 63 

character, 5-9, 37» 73, 89, I15 
fiote 

commodes, 57, 60 

form, 21 

marquetry, 13 

motifs, 49 

mouldings, 1 1, 43 

ornaments, 45, 54 

style of clocks, 77 

tables, 61-62 
Louis XVI, taste for the antique 
under, 14 

society of the age, 37-40 
Louis XVI Style, history, 1-2, 9, 
10,21 

armoires, 54 

beauty of the pieces, 43-44 

beds, 75 

characteriitics, II-12, 37-40, 

115 

colour, 84-85 



146 Index. GLOSSARY 



Louis XVI Style, commodes, 57 

definition of surfaces, 42 

difference from Louis XV 
Style, 83-84 

escritoires, 116 

lines, 99-100, III 

motifs, 45-49, 54 

moulding, 43 

non-development in the pro- 
vinces, 52 

ornamentation, 44-46 

pieces with revolutionary 
emblems, 21 

principle of the straight 
line, 40-42 

tapestries, 80 
Louis-Phillipe, fashions under, 

84-85, 132-33 
Louveciennes, pavilion of, 37 
Louvre, the, bureau of Louis 
XV, II 

restoration, 31 

sample of Beneman, 19 
" Lumiere (bras de)," 81 note 
Lyons, looms of, 80 
Lyre, the, motif, 72 

lyre-backs, 73-74 

Mahogany, vogue of, 49-50, 

72, III 
" Mains," Louis XVI, pendanies, 

57-58 
fixes, 58 
Malmaison, restoration, 31, 34 
Manchettes, 69 
Marat, Ami du Pcuple, quoted, 

25-26 
Marechal, Sylvian, F. A. David 

and, Anfiquiii-sd'Hcrculanum,$ 
Marguerite, the, in ornament, 69 
Marie-Louise, 132 
Marquetry, Roentgen and, 13-14 
flutings of, 46-47 
for escritoires, 56 
Marquise, the, 82 
Mars, Champ de, the triumphal 

arch, 22 
Marseilles, 90 
Martin lacquer, the, 49 



"Mascarons," 49 
Mercure de France, the " Suppli- 
cation," 6-7 
" Meridiennes," 127 
Merveilleuses, the, 27-28 
Mesengere, La, Journal des 

Modes et dcs Dames, 27 
Meslay, or Meslee, Rue, 25 
Metal ornaments on seats, II2-13 
"Militaire(ala),"bed, 75 
Mirrors, small, J7, 78 

movable, I19-120 
Modillions, 54 
Montesquieu, 15-I6 
" Montgolfiere (en)," 72 
Montigny, 18 
Moreau, 24 

Mosaics of Florence, 14 
" Motifs," ornamental, 46-47 

antique, 52 

Louis XVI, 54 

the drapery, 58 
Mouldings, beaded, II-I2 

atrophied, under the Empire, 

lOO-IOI 

Louis XVI Style, 43 
" Moyenne," the, 77-78 

Napoleon, First Consul, 30-31 
throne at Fontainebleau, 112 

Neuwied, 13 

Normandy cupboards, 52-54 
buffets, 86-87 

Nouveaux Riches after 1795, 
26-27 

Oberkampf, 88 
Odiot, 22 

Oeben, works of, 10, II, 27, 95 
Ornaments, Louis XVI Style, 
44-49 
Empire Style, 108-110 
Osmont, Hotel d*, 17 
Ottomans, 74-75 
"Oves,"45 

"Paduasoy," 129 
" Paestum Style," 17 
Painting, the antique in, 16-17 



INDEX. GLOSSARY 



141 



Panels, definition of, 42-43 

" Panurge (a la)," 75 

"Papiers des Indes," ^^ 

" Patisseries," 79 

Patil et Viriiiiiie, 16 

Pediments, mirror, 77-78 

Peinture et de Sculpture, Aca- 
demic de, 3 

" Petit Dunkerque," the, 44 

Percier, Charles {see Fontaine, 
Pierre) 

Pianoforte, the, 129 

"Pieds de biche," 9, 20, 48, 57, 
58, 60, 62 

" Pieds en carquois," 61 

"Pieds en gaine," 60 

" Pilastres," 47 

Piranesi, 14-15 

"Polonaise (a la)," beds, 75-76 

Pompadour, Mme. de, 3, 5, 37 

Pompeii excavations, influence 
on taste of the time, 4, 24, 40, 
64,86 

Porcelain plaques, 50 

Printed linens, 90 

Provence, armoires from, 54 
commodes from, 58 

Provincial workshops, work 
during the Revolution, 22 

Pyrenees, buffet from, 90 note 

"Quart de rond," 100 
Quinquet, lamps of, 1 30 

" Rais de coeur," 45 
"Rangde feuilles," 69 
" Rang de pedes," 69 
"Rangs de piastres," 9, 45-4^, 69 
" Rangs de Sapeques," 46 
Rascalon, 95 

Ravrio, bronzes by, 108, 131 
Recamier, Mme., portrait by 
David, 24, 127 

decoration of her house, 28 
Recueil d* antiqiiitc's, etc., 3 
Regency, style of the, 21, 69-70 
Rempart, Rue Basse du, 17 
Renaissance, the first French, 2 

influence on style of orna- 
ment, 48-49 



Republic, style of the, 24 
interiors of the, 28 
turners under the, 100 

Restoration Style, 34, 132-33 

Reveillon, papers made by, 79-80, 
88 

Revolutionary period, style, 19, 

21,115 
chairs, 125 
pieces of the, 83-84 
symbols on Louis XVI 
pieces, 21-22, 58 
Ribbons, knots of, 14, 49 
Riesener, Jean Henri, lO-ll, 19, 

27. 43, 95 
"Rinceaux," 17, 19, 20, 45, 47, 

48, 54, 124 
Rivoli, 28 
"Rocaille," 6 
Rococo Style, 54 
Roederer, he Opuscules, quoted, 

103-5 
Roentgen, David, marquetry of, 

13-14 
Roman architecture, influence 

on the Louis XVI Style, 40, 4S 
Romans, furniture of the, 96-98 
Rondin, 103 
Rosace, ornament, 23, 43, 45, 69, 

108 
Rousseau, 38, 65 

construction of the Hotel de 

Salm, 17 
love of antiquity, 5 
Royal e. Rue, 60 
" Rubans enroules," 45 
" Rudente," 46 
R nines des plus beaux monuments 

de la Grcce, 3 

Saint-Antoine, Faubourg, 

cabinet makers, 22 
Saint-Cloud, restoration, 31, 34 
Salm, Hotel de, 17 
Salon of 1785, 16-17 
'* Salons de compagnie," 82 
Saunier, Claude C, 13, 19 
Schwerdfeger, 19 
Screens, 76-77 



142 



INDEX. GLOSSARY 



Seats, Empire, 122-23 
"Secretaire a abattant," 56 
" Secretaires-commodes/' 60 
Severin, cabinet-maker, 18 
Sevres china, popularity, 50 

plaques, 56, 65, HI 
" Sheaf " back, 73 
Skirts of the Regency, 69-70 
Sofa a le Pommier, 127 
Sofas, Empire, 126-27 
Soubise, Hotel de, 17 
Soufflot, 2, 3 
Soupiere, 121, 124 
Straw chairs, 72-74, 126 
Symbols, Revolutionary, on 

Louis XVI pieces, 21-22 
Symmetry in Empire Style, 102-3 

"Table a fieurs," 65 

"Table denuit," 67 

Tableaux tires (V Homere el de 

Vir^iU, 3-4 
«Table-bouillotte,"63 
"Table-coiffeuse," the, 1 19-20 
Tables, crooked-legged, 9 

a I'anglaise, 62 

card, 63 

consoles, 62-63 

Empire, 1 17-18 

legs of, 60-61 

Louis XVI small, 62-64 

the cross-piece, 61-62 

the frame, 62 

writing, 65-66 
"Tables-dessertes," 86 

"Tabliers,"47 

Talma, 28 

"Termes," 1 18 

"Tetedupied,"6l 

Thomire, bronzes, 108 

Thorwaldsen, 33 

Toilet arm-chairs, 72 

Toilet tables, Louis XVI, 63-64 

"Toilette," i8th century, 1 19 



"Tombeau, (a la)," bed, 75 

"Tores," 45 

"Toupies," 55 

"Transition" pieces, 52 

"Tricoteuse," the, 64 

Triglyphs, 47, 56 

Trinkets, the Greek manner in, 6 

popularity of, 85-86 
Tuileries, restoration, 31 
Turkey carpets, 129 
Turners, guild of, 50, 73 
"Turque (a la)," bed, 75 
Tuscan order, the, 109 
Twin beds, 88 

Vanderbilt collection, the, 11 

Vandieres, Marquis de, 3 

* ' Various ways of ornamenting 

chimney pieces," 15 
Vatican Loggias, arabesques, 49 
Vendome Column, 29 note 
Versailles, 18 
Vigee-Lebrua, Mme., Souvenirs, 

cited, 27-28 
style, 65 
Vitrine, the, 55-56 
Vitruvius, 5 
Vivant-Denon, savant, 29 

Wallace Collection, 19 
Wall-hangings, Empire, 128-29 
Wall-papers, 80 
Walpole, Horace, 38 
Wedgwood, bas-reliefs, 50 

plaques, 112 
Weisweiler, Adam, 20, 51 
Winckelmann, J., 14 
Windsor Castle, redecoration, 

34. 112 
Woods, used under the Empire, 

III 
Writing tables, 65-66 

X-shaped stools, 20 



• I 






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